Charity warns thousands of disabled people put at risk by worrying decline in public toilets

Monica Lennon MSP has challenged the Scottish Government over the dwindling provision of public toilets, after a leading disability charity expressed serious concerns about the growing impact of toilet closures on thousands of disabled people.

Since 2010, there are 161 fewer public toilets around the country.

Councils are increasingly faced with having to sacrifice non-statutory services in order to maintain mandatory services, and public toilets are one such casualty.

The scarcity of public toilets is an inconvenience to members of the public but it is particularly damaging to disabled people, older people and people with caring responsibilities for others. Due to pregnancy, menstruation and gynaecological conditions, limited access to public toilets can be particularly challenging for women.

Monica has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Aileen Campbell MSP, to raise the issue.

 Monica Lennon, said: 

“Public toilets are vanishing in Scotland as councils struggle to meet the needs of their communities because of austerity budget cuts.

“Disability Equality Scotland are speaking out because accessible public toilets are vital for public health and participation in community life.

“It is always the most vulnerable who pay the price of austerity. I’m calling on Scottish Government ministers to abandon cuts and to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fund our councils properly. Councils, for example, want the ability to introduce a local tourist tax in their areas to help pay for community amenities like public toilets and the Scottish Government should stop preventing them from doing so.”

Morven Brooks, CEO of Disability Equality Scotland said:

“Being able to use a toilet is a basic human right, however every day thousands of disabled people across the country are denied that right due to the worrying decline in public toilets and the lack of suitable facilities therein for disabled people.

“A lack of public toilets can also be a health risk, leading to social isolation as it could prevent disabled people from leaving their homes, feeling humiliated, and worried about how they would cope without suitable public toilet facilities being available.

“Organisations and public bodies have a duty of care under The Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments or provisions for people on their premises who are at particular risk due to disability, injury or other mobility restrictions.

“Furthermore, to use the toilet in safety and comfort, many people need to be able to access a Changing Places toilet, which have more space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.  Providing these toilets in public places would make a dramatic difference to the lives of thousands of people who desperately need these facilities.

“We strongly believe that more must be done by local councils to maintain public toilets across Scotland to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against.”