Changing Places win Budget backing: a reason to smile

Tracey Proudlock on March 30, 2020

Kirsten Galea, architect and training access consultant with Proudlock Associates, shares some great news for inclusion that you might have missed.

Here’s some good inclusion news for you: the government has promised a £30 million Changing Places Fund.

Amid the doom and gloom of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is definitely something to celebrate. In his March 12 2020 Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to accelerate the provision of Changing Places toilet facilities in new and existing buildings.

changing places toilet

Important and positive news

At a time when we are all desperate for distraction, Proudlock Associates want to explain why this news is so important and positive.

As well as the funding, the Budget says the government intends to change the building regulations to mandate the provision of Changing Places facilities.

Obviously, the current crisis might delay things but this is definitely a welcome development.

Win for Changing Places Consortium

This is a big win for the Changing Places Consortium, which launched its campaign to change lives in 2006.

It follows the consortium’s other significant victories, which include:

  • successfully campaigning for the Olympic Park and London’s transport system to have a number of Changing Places installed in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games,
  • convincing the Department for Transport to launch a £2 million fund for Changing Places to be installed in existing motorway service stations.

How Changing Places offer freedom

These changes have been eagerly awaited by over a quarter of a million British people – that’s about the population of Nottingham or Plymouth – who cannot use standard accessible toilets.

This change in building regulations and the fund promised in the Budget should make a big difference to the lives of so many people.

It will give more disabled people the independence that the majority of the general public enjoy day in, day out. It will give them the ability to go wherever they want to, with the reassurance that somewhere, not far, there will be suitable facilities.

Be it at work, educational institutions, NHS hospitals and local medical practices, shopping centres, entertainment venues, gyms, pools, parks, stations, airports and wherever else, they get to enjoy places without too much advance planning.

Chancellor’s statement

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak put it:

‘Where people shop, go out or travel should not be determined by their disability.  Yet currently the lack of the right facilities can prevent some people from enjoying the day today activities many of us take for granted.

‘I want to change that, which is why my Budget this week is about spreading opportunity, not only across different parts of the country, but also throughout our communities.’

Growing empathy about self-isolation

Back to the Covid 19: perhaps the restrictions of the pandemic response will help people empathise with the lack of freedom faced daily by some members of their community.

A lot of us are experiencing social distancing, self-isolation and potentially quarantine. We are already frustrated after a few days stuck at home. We are annoyed by strong advice to change our daily routines and stop interaction that we are used to. We shouldn’t pop to the shops, or meet up for coffee.

Everyday challenge for some

Now, imagine that you and your family can never enjoy the outside world as you please because you don’t know whether there will be toilet facilities you can use. You need to research extensively every single place you want to go to, to ensure its got the facilities you need.

We know that this pandemic will pass in time and we’ll be out and about in the world as if nothing ever happened. Yet nothing will change for the many children, adults and older people who require the Changing Places toilet facilities to experience a small fraction of our freedom.

Role of construction industry

Now, most people in the construction industry have heard about Changing Places toilet facilities. Some may have even designed or installed one too.

However, to date the uptake has been slow. According to the Changing Places Consortium website there are only 1,474 registered Changing Places in the UK. That’s a very small number when you consider how many places have standard or accessible WC facilities for the general public.

What you can offer

We are conscious that a lot of colleagues in the industry do not realise what installing a Changing Places toilet facility involves.

This new funding should allow you to create welcoming and pleasant facilities for a desperately underserved part of our community.

With planning and attention to detail, you can provide hospitable facilities without inflating the project budget. You can aim much higher than just ‘following the standards’.

Colourful positive spaces

And Changing Places do not need to look medical, clinical or depressingly dull, far from it. You could, for example, include some peaceful graphics or art on the walls and/or ceilings. See photographs.

A Changing Places Toilet Wall showing blues skies and colourful balloons.

The location of these facilities in public buildings should also be considered with care; you need inclusive places that can be easily and safely experienced by everyone.

Proudlock Associates can help

If you are thinking of creating a Changing Places facility but do not know where to start, please get in touch. Proudlock Associates can offer advice on creating an inclusive design.

We have over a decade of experience in providing clients with exceptional inclusive design solutions. Let’s lift our mood and celebrate this opportunity to create a more inclusive world.

Finally, three cheers and thanks to our inclusion friends at Aveso for sharing the Changing Places photographs.