As I wrote earlier this year, a pioneering Changing Places toilet was at risk of being flushed away in council cutbacks. Following feedback received as a result of this article, I contacted departmental management from within Kirklees Council with the following questions:
Firstly, are you able to provide a statement on the future of the flagship Changing Places provision within Crow Nest Park Adventure Playground?
Secondly, what impact assessment has been undertaken, with regards to the proposed loss of the Changing Places Unit, should KMC (Kirklees Metropolitan Council) determine to remove funding from the playground as a whole?
Thirdly, what alternative provision do you intend to make for children and families, should the Changing places Unit no longer be available? How does KMC plan to keep the park accessible to even those with the most complex of needs, under the council’s duty to promote inclusive access to local services?
These questions were posed on the 18th April, however no response was received. The same council management were asked again on the 24th May, once more with no response forthcoming.
Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs), though not mandatory, provide vital evidence of how decisions affecting service provision or policy implementation have been made taking on board whether anyone with a protected characteristic, as defined by the 2010 Equality Act, (age/gender/ethnicity/religious belief/disability/sexual orientation or gender re-assignment) would be more adversely affected or discriminated against by proposed changes. The aim of EIAs is to remove barriers and increase societal participation. Kirklees Council website provides information on previously actioned EIAs.
Under The Public Sector Equality Duty, all local authorities should aim to; eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations. On their website Kirklees Council highlight that ‘our requirement and commitment (to equality, diversity and inclusion) remains to meet our obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and Public sector Equality Duty’. The website also states,’…the Council will seek to go beyond minimum legal compliance and actively promote diversity…We will continue to explore new and innovative ways of working based on inclusion which will help improve services…and the overall quality of life for all our communities.’
The Changing Places unit in question inherently benefits those with the protected characteristic of disability, and due to the extra accessible features within these units, the service provision goes beyond minimum requirements. Changing Places toilets also promote equality of access as even those with the most complex of needs can be catered for, without the need to remain at or near home, hence opening up the local environment for all. It should be that on this basis the Council needs to either retain current provision or provide a viable alternative to maintain its pledges on inclusion, diversity and equality.
I continue to push for a response on this issue and await feedback from Kirklees Council.
By Sam Heaton