Dear Paul

Your letter to The IBS Network has been passed to me for comment and I agree with your sentiments!  There is not enough understanding of the need for easy toilet access for those of us with IBS and of course other conditions.  In fact there appears to be a dire lack of comprehension about the toilet needs of the population as a whole.

Legislation:  One of the reasons why public toilets are closing or are not readily available is the fact that there is no legal obligation to provide them.  As the whole population needs a loo several times a day it seems ludicrous that there is no statutory provision – and currently, there are business rates to pay on public toilets although David Cameron is ‘looking into’ this [Daily Telegraph 24 July].

Travel:  I couldn’t agree more with having toilets easily available when travelling.  Those of us with IBS are not alone in having to plan journeys with toilets in mind.  There are many travel hotspots that do not have toilets and even some tourist areas have closed their facilities in the mistaken belief this saves money.  We know it doesn’t in the long term.  Some areas have Community Toilet Schemes where businesses allow visitors to use their loos without making a purchase.  These should be an addition to public facilities but are often a replacement. They need to be well signposted and properly described as not all are suitable for everyone.

Portable ‘toilets’:  There are portable devices available which are suitable for men and women and there are also items such as the Popaloo which is popular with campers.  This is great to have in the car and is easily assembled when needed – in an appropriate spot.  I personally don’t believe in taking medication to stop needing the loo unless I really have to.  And of course we shouldn’t have to – facilities should be available

Discrimination:  I’m looking into the Equality Act.  There are some very clear booklets on the subject produced by Accessible Toilets – another facebook campaign.

Police:  I’m hearing more and more about people being criminalised for going to the toilet in an ‘undesignated’ place.  Whilst it cannot be condoned the person cannot be blamed.  Where else are they to go?  I believe it is the authorities who are at fault for not providing adequate facilities and I write letters to Councils who are closing facilities yet shout when people use other areas as a toilet.  There is currently a lot of blame going on in Kent re: lorry drivers and I’ve spoken on Radio Kent on the subject.  It is unhygienic and unhealthy for the people who have to clean up any mess – and it costs!  Why not have toilets in the first place?

Misuse:  Many facilities are closed because of misuse / vandalism.  There are ways and means around the problem and I re-edited a booklet on the subject with Hertfordshire Constabulary.  I send it out to Councils who threaten closure because of misuse.  As someone once said to me ‘you don’t close a shop because of shoplifting!’  And of course closure forces people elsewhere

Medical profession:  I have spoken to a lot of medical professionals and have been amazed at the lack of awareness of the importance of toilet access.  In fact one doctor said to me ‘what have public toilets got to do with public health?’  The cost to the NHS for continence products etc is large. Ensuring decent toilets would contribute to both mental and physical wellbeing.  ‘Holding on’ can cause physical damage and both ‘holding on’ and ‘urgency’ affect concentration – not good news when you’re driving!  I’m pleased to say that I have also had positive discussions with doctors and health professionals and there is, in some areas, a growing awareness of the issues and useful research; but there is a lot more to do.

Campaign:  Public Toilets UK is currently collecting ‘evidence’ ie people’s stories, list of places where toilets are under threat or have closed in order to build up a viable case, seeking out relevant research etc.  We are gathering support from a wide range of people and organisations.  I am also involved with Truckers’ Toilets UK another facebook campaign which is working to improve access to toilets for lorry drivers – they are in a similar position!

Mindset:  Both of our campaigns are making progress but it will take time. In spite of the fact we all need the loo, there is a taboo about talking about toilets.  It’s a subject which is considered by many as ‘not nice’ but unless we break down these barriers we will continue to suffer the consequences.  Polite persistence is the key!

Having toilets available is very beneficial.  They help our personal comfort and health but they also contribute to our economy.  Where there are toilets, people visit and spend time – and money.  They can be a win win situation!

Also see this recent article in The New Statesman.  http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/politics-sanitation-why-we-urgently-need-more-public-toilets

And do follow https://www.facebook.com/PTUKcampaign for more information about closure of public toilets

‘David Cameron has pledged to do more to save Britain’s dwindling number of public lavatories’ [Christopher Hope, Daily Telegraph 24 July]. Part of the problem to date has been the taxes levied on toilets. Mr Cameron is reported as saying that there is more that can be done and ‘we will be looking at all these things’. He must be encouraged to do so!

Against Closure of Public Toilets

The IBS Network strongly believe there is nothing ‘just’ about IBS!  It is for that reason that we are campaigning for more awareness and improved services for this debilitating and all too often disregarded illness. 

 

 

The IBS Network is supporting campaigns by the British Toilet Association and Public Toilets UK to oppose closure of public toilets in many UK cities and to create awareness about needs of people with IBS for easy access to toilets. Read more ...

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