Alison and Mylor
Alison shares her Changing Places campaign journey...
"I’m Alison, Mum to Mylor, 11 years, and we (inc. Daddy!) live in Retford, a small market town in North Nottinghamshire.
Mylor needs an assistive toilet in order to get out and about, but go back 3 years and we were completely unaware of the Changing Places Campaign. At that that time I was experiencing a sense of realisation for not being able to take Mylor out on my own, as a family we were already struggling but the loss of my independence really struck me.
One morning in October 2014 I had a thunderbolt moment! I caught Accessible Derbyshire on BBC Breakfast discussing the issue and lack of fully accessible toilets. I had never heard anyone talk about 'our problem' before; that's when I found about the Changing Places campaign and I hit Google.
The following February I attended the Changing Places conference in Chesterfield, not too far away so off I went. I was a little blown away by all the speakers, one of them was Samantha Buck, a Mum who had raised awareness (and continues to) in her home town and had succeeded in pushing her council to provide Changing Places facilities in Horsham.
Ok, let’s give it a go I thought! So I set up a Facebook page and nervously hit the share button! It took a lot of courage to speak out about something very personal to us and its subject matter was toilets! I wasn’t too sure how people or friends were going to ‘react’. A lot of our friends or family had no idea or our difficulties. I found we were not alone, the support came in and people liked the page, despite my efforts! (There really are so many fantastic campaigners out there but all you can do is be honest, do your best in your own way).
Buoyed on by the amount of parents and people who came forward, I set to task, I used lots of resources from Changing Places to help construct letters. I wrote to the local hospital trust and the Council and other places. It wasn't easy in the first few months, (surprise surprise I didn’t get many replies to my letters!) and I work full time so it took a lot of effort but I found valuable support from the local SEN school, as well as meeting and reaching out to other parents. We began to form a campaign group.
A pivotal point came after meeting our local MP John Mann, he set up a meeting with council leaders, resulting in a feasibility study of public buildings in Retford. By the start of 2016 things were moving fast; a location was found, newspaper announcement, brilliant! Subsequent changes of plans did stretch out the project but they made way for a better solution; a purpose built Changing Places facility in Retford, built from scratch! Funding for the Changing Places toilet was provided by 4 Groups, Nottinghamshire County Council, Bassetlaw Council, Nottinghamshire Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board and our campaign group.
By principle I was adamant I wouldn’t raise money for Retford Changing Places, but we did agree to fundraise to cover the first year costs of maintenance for Retford Changing Places and it served us really well. Our fundraising boosted community awareness, plus we had lots of fun in the process! We made £3500 by hosting fundraisers (the Future is Brighter, Ballroom Blitz) along with support from other community groups.
Then it happened! 2 weeks ago we finally opened the newly built Changing Places toilet in Retford! In its first week it enabled a family to attend a matinee performance at the Theatre, something which was impossible to do before. We hope it will serve its purpose and help many more families in our area as well as attracting new visitors to the town.
In the meantime we continue to work with other organisations and raise awareness for Changing Places. It is hoped that our local hospital will soon provide these vital facilities and we have recently been in talks with the National Trust at Clumber Park."