Last week MPs debated the availability of accessible toilets for disabled adults and people with continence difficulties.

The debate, which was secured by Labour MP Toby Perkins, focused on the provision of Changing Places toilets. Changing Places toilets are larger than standard accessible toilets with extra features such as large bins, changing benches and non-slip floors.

The Changing Places campaign has been running for over ten years with the aim of ensuring greater provision of Changing Places toilets. There are nearly ¼ of a million people in the UK who need such toilets, but less than 1,000 are available.

Impact on families

Perkins’ speech highlighted that families of children with continence problems have to organise family outings based on whether there are sufficient toileting facilities where they are travelling.

He added that 900,000 children have continence problems in the UK – many of whom are not considered disabled, but still require appropriate space for changing.

"It is impossible to overestimate the extent to which consideration of access to toilets is a dominant factor for someone with an incontinent child or adult in their family unit". Toby Perkins MP

Perkins said that providing good toilet access is a "moral obligation that we have as a civilised society to disabled people and their families”, and that poor general access to Changing Places toilets has health-related cost implications, and also impacts tourism.

Government plans

Perkins asked Communities Minister, Marcus Jones whether the Government plans to amend building regulations to make changing places toilets mandatory in large public buildings. He also asked whether the Government would investigate setting up a fund to subsidise the construction of these toilets.

The Health Spokesperson for the Scottish National Party, Dr Philippa Whitford commented that a high number of people will be affected by poor access to high-quality toilets in the future, given that the UK has an ageing population with a rising number of people with stomas and "other problems of urinary and faecal support”.

The Minister responded that the Government recognised the importance of accessible toilets for disabled people and that most people take their availability for granted. He stressed that any new Changing Places toilets must be placed strategically rather than widely, as building a Changing Places toilet in the wrong location would be a "missed opportunity”.

He added that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has commissioned research into how well toilet provision in building regulations is working, which includes specific reference to the need for Changing Places toilets. He said that the Government will consider reviewing current guidance in light of the research.

Prior to the debate the Paediatric Continence Forum (PCF) provided MPs with a briefing on the importance of the availability of accessible toilets for families with children with continence problems.

The PCF is a campaign group of health professionals, patient representatives and commercial members which raises awareness of childhood bladder and bowel problems in order to improve NHS services.

ERIC is one of two charity members of the PCF; the other being PromoCon, which promotes bladder and bowel health in children and adults with disabilities.

Find a Changing Places toilet near you.