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Campaign for Changing Places in Mendip

by adamboyden on 9 February, 2017

Original article (also see update below):

I was recently made aware that standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of people with a complex or profound disability who need extra facilities to allow them to use a toilet with dignity. This includes people with physical and learning difficulties, spinal injuries, and people living with stroke, who are unable to sit, stand or bear their own weight independently and who need assistance from carers. Please see the recent Frome Standard article here.

The national Changing Places campaign (see promotes the development of toilets built to the Changing Places standard, with a ceiling hoist, changing table and more space for carers to assist. There are 919 Changing Places facilities nationally in town centres, public toilets, civic buildings, health facilities, leisure and shopping centres, bus and railway stations and airports. Many of these are owned and managed by local councils.

There are currently no Changing Places facilities anywhere in Mendip district, and few elsewhere in Somerset. Clarks Village in Street have agreed to provide a Changing Places facility in future, after meetings were facilitated by Mendip DC officers (although the commitment to proceed is to be confirmed).  So people with these needs in Mendip are currently forced to be changed on the toilet floor, which is unhygienic and puts their carers at risk of injury, or they go home, or do not make the trip at all. Wiltshire has 7 Changing Facilities (and a proactive attitude) – see the council’s video here.

Research by Somerset County Council and Glastonbury & District Mencap has estimated that Changing Places facilities in the district would benefit over 7700 people in Mendip district and would allow them to spend time in Frome, Wells, Shepton Mallet, Street and Glastonbury. This would benefit the local economy, and increase tourism into the district by attracting families and groups who book visits to places where a Changing Places facility is present.

There is current no specific Government funding for Changing Places, but possible sources of funding include council funds, commercial and public sector building developments, Big Lottery grants, crowdfunding and business sponsorship, Section 106 Agreements and (in future) the Community Infrastructure Levy.  The Council is facing reduced Government funding in this and future years’ Local Government Finance Settlement, so is less able than before to fund the installation of new CP facilities. However, the Council recently increased the borrowing limit to £40m in order to be able to invest in projects that provide community benefit. There is also no specific legal or planning policy requirement to install Changing Places facilities, although the Government is considering their inclusion in a review of Building Regulations, and another debate in Parliament is coming up soon.

Mendip District Council provides public toilets, owns and manages land and buildings in accessible places, and has a wealth of relevant expertise. The Changing Places Practical Guide identifies case studies where other local authorities have worked in cross-sector partnerships with businesses and other organisations to provide Changing Places, with costs and responsibilities for installation and management being shared in different ways. The Council can therefore help coordinate and facilitate provision in Mendip by taking a leadership role, working with partner organisations and empowering local communities.

There is an urgent need to identify the feasible options and the costs (of equipment, construction or refurbishment work, and maintenance) involved in providing Changing Places facilities in town centre locations in each main settlement, and in a range of existing facilities, to decide on the preferred options and establish the costs, so that local communities can raise the funds required. So, after several meetings and discussions with campaigners and parents who need these facilities for their children, I and other councillors have submitted a motion to Mendip District Council, to ask the council to support the development of Changing Places in each main settlement in Mendip: Frome, Wells, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet and Street.

To see the motion and background reports by Mencap Glastonbury & District Branch, and the report and Frome Changing Places Group, click below:

The motion will be debated at the Full Council meeting on Monday 20th February at Mendip District Council offices, Cannards Grave, Shepton Mallet. The meeting is open to everyone, it starts at 6.30pm and you can just turn up. The motion is in item 13 of the agenda, see here but could be heard at the beginning if the Chair agrees. To write in support or comment, you need to email the Committee Officer adding that it’s in relation to the Motion on ‘Changing Places’ being heard at the Full Council meeting on Monday 20th February (and please do copy me in at Several people have arranged to speak at the meeting about the motion.

Relevant organisations to involve in planning provision of Changing Places include Somerset County Council, town/parish/city councils, charities (including Mencap), community groups, the Somerset Learning Disability Partnership Board, adult social care and disability teams, care homes, day centres, carers’ groups (including Carers Voice Somerset), shopping centres, businesses, chambers of commerce, Business Improvement Districts, landowners, developers, Fusion and other leisure providers, health and educational providers, Patient Participation Groups, Health Forums, civic halls, libraries and cultural facilities, and faith organisations (including churches and the Diocese of Bath & Wells).

The provision of Changing Places facilities would help ensure the Council’s compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty and duty not to discriminate under the Equalities Act 2010.

Update after Full Council meeting 20th February:

Success! On Monday evening, Mendip District councillors unanimously approved a new motion (see Updating for Full Council 20.02.17) (which Cabinet member cllr Phil Ham and I proposed), endorsing the Changing Places campaign and requiring the council to investigate, cost and facilitate (and work with other public bodies, businesses, charities and the community to provide) Changing Places in the district. This was the result of months of work with Alison and other campaigners to get their voices heard, and I am very pleased that they were heard (and applauded). A big thanks to Alison and the other campaigners and councillors who support this campaign, people who came to the meeting and those that spoke (Alison Douthwaite, Cath Puddick, Becky Bird and Tony Perry (for Jenny Date), and other councillors who spoke in support (including Helen Sprawson-White, Des Harris, Phil Ham, Tom Killen, Lloyd Hughes, Nick Cottle, Dick Skidmore, John Osman (leader of Somerset County Council), Peter Bradshaw, Ros Wyke, Damon Hooton and Harvey Siggs (leader of Mendip) and to every councillor present who voted for the motion. It was an overwhelmingly positive meeting. Mendip DC will now take this forward through the Equalities Group who next meet in early March, and a report (with recommendations and costings) will be prepared for full council in May. Please see here for the council’s official press release and here for Frome Standard’s article about the decision. As I said at the meeting, this motion is about Changing Places, but really it is about changing lives. My speech in favour of the new motion is below.

“Councillors, hopefully you will have read the Preamble, the original motion and the reports from Glastonbury & District Mencap and the Frome Changing Places group on the issue. But when Alison and Neil, Ettie’s parents, first asked me to look into this in August, I have to admit I had no real understanding of the issue. So I looked at the issue again – I learned that the standard disabled toilets we have in Mendip simply do not meet the needs of residents and visitors who have complex and profound disabilities who cannot bear their own weight and need assistance from carers. There is a national campaign, and over 900 Changing Places nationally that have a ceiling hoist, adult changing table and extra room for carers to assist, but no Changing Places in Mendip accessible to the public. Imagine, for a minute, having to change your son or daughter or someone else you care about on the toilet floor or go home, or not being able to plan a day out in our district as there is nowhere to ‘go’ – something that we all take for granted.  I thought that’s not right.

So I raised the issue at Neighbourhood Services portfolio meetings and with officers, and learned that the idea had been considered years ago but rejected as too difficult. Further discussion and research was required. So we asked around and gathered information and support. We raised this (and Alison had discussed previously) with lots of people including Frome Town Council, Fusion, Somerset County Council, Frome’s Cheese & Grain, but Through senior officers I learned of the Glastonbury & District Mencap campaign and of the County Council officer working on this, who is hopefully here tonight, and that their work may bear fruit at Clarks Village in Street, but that elsewhere there was little progress. There is no legal requirement, no specific funding, it’s too difficult and costly, but the more you look into this, there is a clear social need, and a business case as well.  Nationally the issue was suddenly being covered more, with articles in the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Guardian, and a debate in Parliament and a review of Building Regulations to follow. But without this council taking a lead, nothing will change… So I drafted a motion to propose change, and to give people who need that change a way of making their voices heard … I hope you will listen to the speakers and have read the Supporting Voices document at the back of your meeting papers, and try and understand what this means to them. I am grateful for the support of my group particularly Helen Sprawson-White and others, and Des Harris, ward councillor for Frome town centre, who both seconded it, and advice from Bryan Beha, Claire Hudson and others in Frome. The motion asks Council to sign up to the Changing Places campaign and do a feasibility study to identify the best option for putting in Changing Places in each town (and city) centre where most people can access them, and identify the costs involved, and set out a way of making Changing Places a reality. We also need to see where else Changing Places are needed, such as the council’s leisure centres, local health facilities and other public buildings, and use our powers of persuasion.  Jedi Mind Tricks would come in handy.  Last week I met cllrs Siggs, Ham and Taylor and our chief executive to discuss, and I am very grateful for their support and advice.

So we now have a new improved and totally cross party motion, which will take a big step towards making Changing Places a reality in Mendip. We will need to consider what Council can contribute at a future Cabinet once the best options, the costs and the responsibilities, and how other stakeholders, and other sources of funding, and crowdfunding, can help, are worked out. When this council takes a lead I know we can do great things, we can put things right. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped. I would be pleased to join the Equalities Group meetings to help make this happen. I ask every one of you to support the new motion.  We can really make a difference here. The motion is about Changing Places, but really it is about Changing Lives. Thank you.”

Further information:

Changing Places: (including a Practical Guide)

Daily Mail article, 16 January 2017:
A debate in Parliament, 17 January 2017:
Frome Standard article, 23 January 2017:
Daily Mirror article, 6 February 2017:
The Government’s response to a petition on Changing Places facilities:

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