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Matthews welcomes progress from Changing Places Departmental Working Group

Date: 13 May 2021

Green Party TD, Deputy Steven Matthews was speaking following a reply he received from Minister Darragh O’Brien to a parliamentary question seeking an update on progress in amending building regulations to require changing places facilities in suitable public buildings. A changing places toilet offers larger supported facilities that address the needs of people for whom current accessible sanitary accommodation is inadequate. These facilities enable people with complex care needs to take part in everyday activities such as travel, shopping, family days out or attending a sporting event. Discussing the response, Deputy Matthews said:

“This is an issue I first brought up in the Dáil late last year following a series of meetings with a local group of carers and supporters who are pushing for these facilities for people who need them. At the time, I welcomed the urgent action taken by my party colleague, Minister Malcolm Noonan in setting up a departmental working group that includes a wide variety of organisations including the HSE, the Office of Public Works and Changing Places Ireland, the charity behind the campaign at a national level. These groups are working in a collaborative way to amend existing building regulations. As is often the case, the legislation in this area is complex and the working group includes represantatives from the construction and legal sectors in order to work through any legal hurdles.

“After 4 meetings so far this year, the working group is making positive progress and a report and draft amendments to the existing legislation are in progress which will offer the basis for a public consultation later this year. I look forward to continuing to work with Changing Places and the Minister on this issue because at the heart of it, this work is about improving the lives of carers and those who require these facilities and offering basic dignity that will provide publicly accessible toilets that meet their needs.

“On a local level, I recently met with the Sub Committee on Changing Places that is part of Wicklow County Council’s Inclusion and Disability Committee, chaired by Cllr. Miriam Murphy. It was a welcome opportunity to provide the group with an update at a national level and to support their efforts in ensuring this initiative is pushed at a local level across Wicklow. I look forward to continuing my work with the Sub Committee and my Green Party colleagues in Wicklow County Council to advocate for the inclusion of Changing Places in public buildings.

“Ultimately, I am working towards ensuring that the legislation is amended at a national level so that it won’t be down to local councilors or politicians to advocate for changing places to be included in public building plans, it will be a basic minimum requirement", concluded Deputy Matthews.

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