Mid and East Antrim Council to get costing for ‘Changing Places’ toilet provision

More than 250,000 people in the United Kingdom cannot use standard accessible toilets, Mid and East Antrim councillors were told at a recent meeting.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 3:09 pm

The statistic was presented by Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly who proposed a motion asking the council to commit to a Changing Places standard toilet facility at all council-organised events.

Cllr Donnelly told councillors that the absence of suitable toilets means that people with complex disablity cannot take part in activities such as attending a sporting event and without suitable changing places, which include a bench and hoist, many people have to be changed on unhygienic toilet floors and can become “trapped in their own homes”.

He also pointed out that generous space is also required for the disabled person,  carers and equipment.

Larne Town Park

Cllr Donnelly went on to say there are 1,567 registered Changing Places toilet facilities in the United Kingdom and an online map makes planning journeys easier.

In Mid and East Antrim, there are such facilities in Tesco, Carrickfergus, The Music Yard, Larne and the Tower Centre, Ballymena.

He told members that Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced it is his intention to make Changing Places compulsory in new buildings.

He noted that the borough council is taking steps to secure this provision – at the new toilet block at Larne Town Park with others planned in parks and lesiure centres.

Cllr Donnelly went on to say that the motion will make portable Changing Places units available at council events to those with complex needs and their families to make these programmes fully inclusive.

“In order to be fully accessible, we need to provide access to appropriate toilet facilities,” he stressed.

“It would be very strange indeed to run a sports programme for people with disabilities and then make it inaccessible to some people with disabilities because we lack a provision of toilet facilities that they need.

“I believe that by commiting ourselvs to provision of standard Changing Places facility at our public events, we will make Mid and East Antrim more inclusive and improve the quality of life for some of our most disadvantaged and excluded  citizens.”

Braid DUP Councillor Beth Adger, the council’s Disability Champion, said that she welcomed Cllr Donnelly’s motion but proposed an amendment to establish the cost of such a facility.

She said that the council should acknowledge the commitment made in October to initiate Changing Places in its buildings when it has funding available and to acknowledge the provision of Changing Places facilities at major events, which she said, has been “very successful”.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner said he would like to think that the council would not hold an event without making facilities available to all members of the community,

“I believe we have already committed to that,” he remarked.

Cllr Donnelly continued: “I believe what I am asking for is that for public events, we make a commitment when we are organising public events that we will provide these services. I think it is something we owe to our disability community.”

Commenting on Cllr Adger’s amendment, he said that it “dilutes the intention of this motion” adding that he believes that the council should be making this commitment today.

He pointed out that there have been council events that have not included disability Changing Places facilities.

“Bringing people together is what we should all be about.”

The amendment was carried by 19 votes in favour and nine against.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: ‘Changing Places’ facilities commitment by Mid and East Antrim Council

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