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The Sunderland Changing Places Steering Group

5th Jun 2009


Sunderland campaigners step up the pressure for Changing Places toilets

Local residents in Sunderland have joined forces to campaign for Changing Places toilets in their local area.

They have formed the Sunderland Changing Places Steering Group, which includes:

  • Sunderland People First – a group of self advocates with a learning disability
  • The Physical Disability Alliance – a group speaking up for people with a physical disability
  • The Sunderland Carers Group
  • Day centre staff who support people with complex needs
  • A development worker from Mencap
  • A manager and service user from Scope.

How did the campaign begin?

Sunderland"We were approached by a support worker from a local day centre about the issue,"explains Lisa from Sunderland People First, who set up the steering group. "They told us that people with complex needs were having to come back early when visiting community venues because there are no Changing Places toilets, and that peoples dignity was being compromised. We did some consultation and found out that many people thought this was a problem, so we decided to do something about it."

At the moment there are no Changing Places toilets in any public buildings in Sunderland. Although there is no figure for the exact number of people who need to use Changing Places toilets in Sunderland, it is certain that a large number of people are missing out because of the lack of toilets that meet their needs.

"By speaking to just two local day centres and one special school, we found 80 people who need to use Changing Places toilets when they are out and about" explains Matt, another member of the Steering Group. "We believe this is just a drop in the ocean."

The steering group’s aim is to get at least three public Changing Places toilets installed in Sunderland, two in the city centre and one on the seafront which is one of the most popular areas in Sunderland.

To get the campaign rolling the group have set about doing a number of things. Firstly they visited day centres to understand the needs of people with complex needs. They then began to develop local campaign information, including finding out about the demand for Changing Places toilets in Sunderland and visiting toilets around Sunderland and Newcastle to check out the current facilities.

Next the group started to raise awareness of the campaign in the local area, writing articles for local publications and speaking at various events, including the Learning Disability Partnership Board. The group now plan to write to local Councillors and will soon attend an event about the development of Sunderland City Centre.

"Attending consultation events is a great opportunity to get your message heard," says Steve, a Support Worker from the Steering Group."We took part in some research being done for a new Primary Care Centre and recommended they include a Changing Places toilet. To our delight they agreed. This was our first success and the group has only had two meetings!"

What do the group believe is the secret of a good local campaign?

"Getting a good team together and working in partnership with other organisations will make your campaign stronger. It’s also really important to get your information right – the Changing Places website is an excellent resource, one of the most useful and practical sites around. Set clear goals and plan your actions. And finally keep on going!"

If you would like to contact the Sunderland Changing Places Steering Group, please email: