Mum Launches Campaign To Improve Disabled Toilets Inspired By Caring For Her Son

Expert Lawyers Back Calls To Sign Petition

05/12/2013

The devoted mum of a seven-year-old boy left with severe brain damage after being starved of oxygen at birth has launched a government petition to improve public toilet facilities for the severely disabled.

Samantha Buck has generated over 15,000 signatures in a week and said the response goes to show how bad current facilities are for children and adults with physical and learning disabilities.

The mum-of-three from Horsham was inspired to start the campaign after facing difficulties with her son Alfie who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy that leaves him completely reliant on a wheelchair.

She is calling on the government to change all public disabled toilets into ‘changing places toilets’ with a bench and hoist so disabled people can be lifted onto a toilet with ease or changed on a clean surface rather than the toilet floor.

Samantha’s campaign is being backed by medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who earlier this year secured an £8.5m lifetime care package for Alfie from Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust who admitted midwives failed to monitor his heart rate for over 12 hours during labour and failed to deliver him by emergency caesarean which would have prevented his brain being starved of oxygen.

Samantha said: “When Alfie was five years old we were given a RADAR key to access the disabled toilets in Horsham which I was very pleased with. But when we actually used the toilet I realised that disabled loos are not for the severely disabled and elderly, they are for those who walk with sticks or wheelchair users with upper mobility and can get themselves onto a toilet.

“Thousands of people with physical and/or learning disabilities cannot use standard disabled toilets because they cannot walk or stand. They need support from one or two carers to use the toilet or to have their incontinence pad changed. Standard disabled toilets do not provide changing benches or hoists to lift the person on to the toilet or bench. Most are too small to accommodate more than one person.

“Without 'Changing Places' toilets the person with disabilities is put at risk and families or carers are forced to risk their own health and safety by lying their daughter; son or loved one on a toilet floor.

“This is dangerous, unhygienic; humiliating and undignified. We take it for granted that we would not change a baby on the floor of a public toilet - so why on earth is this acceptable for disabled adult people?

“This problem affects so many people which is why I am calling on the government to make all councils change public Disabled Toilets to 'Changing Places Toilets' with bench and hoist for paralysed and severely disabled people and/children. The initial response has been fantastic which shows how bad the current facilities are and how needed this change is.”

Jane Weakley, who represents the family, is a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell's London office.

Jane Weakley The problem Samantha has identified is huge and affects so many people, yet many don’t know where to turn for help.

“Our work puts us in contact with many seriously injured or disabled adults who feel they are simply not able to leave the house because public facilities are just not fit for purpose.

“This is hugely unfair which is why we are backing Samantha with her campaign. For disabled people or their carers this step would give them peace of mind that they can enjoy a trip out and integrate with society without having to forfeit their dignity.

“We will continue to support her with her aim of generating further signatures before she presents the petition to Downing Street.”

To show your support for the campaign please visit: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-call-to-all-councils-to-change-disabled-toilets-to-changing-places-toilets-with-bench-and-hoist-for-paralysed-severely-disabled-people-children

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Cerebral Palsy claims