Charity gains MP's support for fairer deal for disabled people

January 20, 2009 1:52 PM
Speaking Up

David Howarth joins members and workers from Speaking Up (from left) Ian Culverhouse, Debbie Keane, Susanna Patterson and Kirsten Green.

A leading Cambridge charity has gained the backing of MP David Howarth for its campaign to improve the city's disabled toilets.

Speaking Up - which empowers people with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health problems to speak up for themselves - claims the lack of proper Changing Places facilities makes it difficult for their members to go out into the community. Changing Places facilities need to include hoists, changing benches and enough space for carers.

Susanna Patterson, who has high support needs, told Mr Howarth that the new Changing Places disabled toilets in the Grand Arcade, which are due to open soon, will shut before the shops, leaving people unable to access them. She would like to see these toilets put on the Radar key system. Day centres also have disabled facilities which close early in the afternoon, she said.

The charity will also approach the Grafton Centre management asking it to include disabled changing facilities as part of its £15 million revamp.

Mr Howarth has raised the charity's concerns with the government and asked what plans it has to implement recommendations made in a report on public toilets by the Communities and Local Government Committee.

These recommendations included imposing a duty on local authorities to develop a strategy with local consultation on the provision of public toilets in their areas.

In response, Sadiq Khan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said a formal response was expected from the government this month.

Mr Howarth said: "In Cambridge, we need a network of contacts to ensure that disabled facilities are open when people need to use them.

"Nationally we need joined up thinking on this issue. Disabled people need to be able to get out and about with the confidence that facilities are in place to cater for their needs.

"Hopefully the Equalities Bill will bring together all the anti-discrimination legislation so that the disabled get a much fairer deal."

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