Saturday, 26 May 2012

“Changing Places” is the name of a UK campaign to improve public toilet facilities for those of us with severe disabilities.
A new facility has just been opened at the back of the St Helier Town Hall in Seale Street and should be in full operation by the time that this blog hits the stratosphere. Admission to the facility is strictly controlled in accordance with user criteria and requires a “swipe card”

Enquiries should be addressed to the Town Hall tel. 811811 for details.

For this video we looked at the toilet facility and interviewed some of those in attendance for what was billed as the “public opening.”

Of course as a mere blogger we received no press release and just turned up on the day having heard about on BBC Radio Jersey.
We video recorded the ceremony and proceeded to interview some of those present alongside the BBC reporter but having done this without complaint Deputy Hilton then got to work over the orange juice to agitate those interviewed.
As a result of this intervention several said they did not want to be posted on the blog so that is why the faces of those speaking do not appear here.

Deputy Hilton, that well known protector of  freedom of expression further explained that she would be reporting fully to Scrutiny about my appalling behaviour – especially because “I” have made life so difficult for “them” at Scrutiny in the past….It is nice to be appreciated.

Deputy Hilton will no doubt also be promoting the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as a priority now in Jersey….

This all prompted me to return to the empty facility the day following in order to video again and this turned out to be doubly useful.

In fact the room is bigger than it appears when full of people and is much better designed than it seemed. It is about the size of a double bedroom. Certainly much larger than the average bathroom and has been produced in consultation with Changing Places – see   or  changingplaces_blog.aspx
(sorry but I cannot do links),
The WC is a combined bidet/wc (standard in Japan for everybody’s use but very rare in Britain).
The wash basin is adjustable in height.
The hoist is on a double track so that all parts of the room can be accessed. Thus a user can be hoisted from wheelchair to WC or changing platform or to the wash basin and back to wheelchair. This is very important – but the user must provide his or her own sling – so must be planning in advance to use this facility.

Presumably the user must also come equipped with own towels and clean clothes - and it was a very sunny warm day for the May opening - hopefully it will be just as snug in mid-February.

Of course this facility is not cheap. The equipment is expensive.  About £88,000 they advised and of course the structure of the building already existed. So something built afresh could be well over £100,000 and we should bear in mind that the Home Disabilities Adaptations Fund operated by Social Services only has a total annual budget of £50,000 and that is not ever spent!!! Wonder why?

This facility has been funded through public/charitable involvement but the Health Department proposal for future Care in the Community proposes that more aged or disabled people will look after themselves in their own homes – not in “institutional” care at all.

Obviously very few private homes could be altered to this standard – even if the funds were available and these issues were discussed on this blog in previous postings.

See the video interviews for 5th and 6th January 2012 and listen to what Paul Harding (Architect) or Senator Le Gresley (Minister for Social Security) had to say on these particular matters.
If you are approaching retirement and expect to be alive in 20 years time you should be very worried…especially if you do not own your own living accommodation, or will not have fit relatives to care for you.

The Parish of St Helier has a similar changing places facility waiting to be opened in the new Gas Place/Town Park but as always there are fears of vandalism.

It will be interesting to see how long before other Parishes undertake similar projects and how successful this facility is in practice and how often it is used.

The Jersey Building Regulations have already been amended following a proposition from Deputy Green so that certain larger “public” buildings (which can include buildings in private ownership) shall provide facilities to this standard.
In a community that shows no great enthusiasm for employing persons with “disabilities” at all, the likely provision of “changing places” must be very low.
We will try to do a follow-up visit with a user in a few months.

So there you have it – the true cost of being a severely disabled 
person exposed for all to see. Can YOU afford it?

Submitted by Tom Gruchy.