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Calls for public toilets to be unlocked across the UK

Call to action comes as toilet closures continue to deprive vulnerable people in society of the simplest of freedoms. 19 June 2020 – Crohn’s & Colitis UK is calling on the government and councils across the UK to open all public toilets to allow people with chronic conditions, including Crohn’s and Colitis, access to their basic human rights.

Throughout the UK, public toilets and retailer toilets remain closed. Even accessible toilets – single block toilets specifically for people with visible and invisible disabilities, including Crohn’s and Colitis – are currently not open to the public. This deprives the most vulnerable in society of the simplest of freedoms and forces them further into isolation during an already difficult time.

Lockdown restrictions are continuing to ease and people are increasingly being able to go outside and access more retail stores. However, locked toilets are stopping many from going outside to shop for food, meet friends or pick up their medication. This has a significant impact on their mental and physical wellbeing – all because of the fear of going out and having an unplanned accident in public.

As a result, people with Crohn’s or Colitis are being pushed further into isolation, which is having a profound effect on their mental health at an already challenging time.

“I have Crohn’s Disease and have always had to plan journeys because I regularly have flare ups and can have unplanned accidents” commented Michael King, 25, living with Crohn’s Disease, from Blackburn.

“Recently I went to visit my Grandmother’s grave at Pleasington Cemetery in Witton Park in Blackburn and noticed that the toilets next to the park were closed. Fortunately I had been to the toilet before I left as I live very close to the park. However, just like many people with Crohn’s or Colitis, the need to go to the toilet can come on all of a sudden.”

50% of disabilities are invisible often like Crohn’s or Colitis. The most common symptoms of the conditions is the frequent and urgent need to use the toilet to poo. As a result, the need to access public toilets, including accessible toilets, is necessary for people with Crohn’s or Colitis.

Sarah Hollobone, Campaigns Manager at Crohns & Colitis UK said: “It is simply not acceptable to push people with chronic conditions like Crohn’s and Colitis from isolating further by continuing to keep public toilets locked.

“Although some people with the conditions are shielding, many can go outside, like the rest of the country – and should be able to do so for their physical and mental well-being. But by locking public toilets you are preventing people who urgently and frequently need to poo from going outside to exercise, pick up their medication or shop for food for fear of having an accident in public.”

Crohn’s & Colitis UK has been advocating for public and accessible toilets to be re-opened across the UK. The charity, as part of the Toilet Consortium is writing an open letter to Local Authorities about re-opening toilets, but they need clear support from the government on this issue to offer guidance and support to local authorities so they can implement safe practices and hygiene measures.

The charity is also supporting people with Crohn’s or Colitis in writing to their local MP, MSP, AM or MLA, across all four nations to help support the opening up of toilets, enabling those with the conditions to feel part of society.

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