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Gail Speaks at SNP Conference

January 21, 2016

 Conference, it’s a great pleasure for me to second this excellent resolution here today. Personally I think it’s essential amongst the debates about nuclear weapons, land reform and community empowerment that we can bring forward a subject that affects so many people here in Scotland, a basic need that is often overlooked. 

This resolution is about many things, access to facilities, increasing need, individual's freedom , but to me it’s about a more fundamental issue – and that is dignity.

Take a minute to think about this – when you go for a shopping trip, a meal or a day out, what is uppermost in your mind? Can I afford it? How am I going to get there? Am I going to enjoy it, you know, is it my thing?
I’m sure for most of us it’s not “will there be suitable public facilities”? Yet this is the challenge faced by some families and carers every time they take their cared for person out of the house. In fact, many of the people faced with this dilemma are not even leaving their houses, increasing the levels of social isolation and mental health problems.

There have been significant steps taken to try and address this. Currently, there are 174 changing places facilities in Scotland but not all of these are fully compliant with the new British Standard and as such cannot be fully registered but they all have a hoist and an adjustable height changing bench. 

But, at this moment in time there are still thousands of people with profound and multiple learning and physical disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Spina Bifida, Motor Neurone Disease, people with an acquired brain injury and let’s not forget that we are all living longer. Many more people are likely to need access to a changing places facility in the future. 

So I fully support the petition put before the Scottish Parliament by Linda Burke, on behalf of the Profound and Multiple Impairment Service and the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland which “calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to request that local authorities use British standard 8300:2009 to ensure that at least one public toilet built to the changing places standard is provided in the center of every town with a population greater than 15,000 and in every new larger and publicly accessible building and complex.”

I would like to see that figure of 15,000 even lower but I do realise that we have to set a limit at the moment. I hope for a day when these facilities are the norm, rather than the exception. When everyone, whether they are cared for or not, can enjoy all of our beautiful country, cities, towns, villages and rural areas without the additional burden of finding appropriate services.

So today I call on the Scottish Government to keep this as a priority so that we can continue to reduce inequality, ensure a level of dignity for everyone in our society and reaffirm our commitment to social justice.

Conference, please support the resolution.


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