I complained to my local council after a very poor experience, as detailed in ‘Problems‘.
This was the e-mail I sent:-
My son Adam is ten years old and a full time wheelchair user.
Much of his life is a challenge but we do our best to ensure that he can have a full life.
On Friday 9th September we visited Boscawen Park with friends, where we sadly discovered that there is no play equipment which can be accessed if using wheelchair, but we made the best of it with games and exploring.
I knew that at some point Adam would need the toilet and had accepted that it would mean going back to the car, loading his powered wheelchair into the car, strapping it down and then driving to the nearest Changing Places toilet, which as at County Hall.
It took us 10 minutes to get back to the car and strap his wheelchair down. It took a further 10 minutes to drive to the council office. It was a relief to find a dedicated space for users of the Changing Places toilet and the door was clearly signed. However, we got to the door but couldn’t see a way to open it. I did ask someone but they didn’t know either and suggested I went to reception to ask. My son wanted the toilet 20 minutes ago! Other people at Boscawen Park could go at the park, or at several other places between the park and your office.
I did then spot what appeared to be a button opposite the door so pressed it and was given access. I would suggest that it would be useful to have the button on the wall next to the door or a sign telling people to get access by pressing the button behind where they are standing.
We entered the Changing Places toilet and started to bring the hoist to my son. Unfortunately, the emergency pull cord is in the way of the moving bar of the hoist tracking. As I pulled the hoist across the room (I needed the space between the bench and the toilet clear to hoist between the two) the cord was tugged and the alarm set off. It took me a short while to find out how to stop the alarm.
Whilst I was relieved that we hadn’t bothered anyone I am concerned that nobody came to check it there was a problem. As I moved the bar back across the room to get my son on the bench the cord actually dipped into the toilet. The cord is on the other side of the room to the bench so I could not stop it.
So I had to think carefully and reposition his wheelchair so that I could get him out without setting the alarm off and without the emergency cord going in the toilet.
Eventually, I managed to hoist Adam onto the toilet but as I was moving him back to the bench the hoist beeped and stopped working. It was clearly out of charge because it had not been properly returned to the charging point. My son’s toilet sling is a harness, a bit like a climbing harness, so he was dangling. I managed to lift him up and onto the bench and had to support him upright (he cannot sit unaided) whilst I disconnected the harness straps from the hoist spreader bar. A simple sign marking the charging point and reminding people to return it properly to the charging point would help, as would ensuring that staff physically check that it is on the charging point as part of the toilet checks.
I hurt my back very badly last year, to the point where I could not walk for a while and it took a year to be able to push my son’s manual wheelchair at all. I have to be careful and knew that there was no way I could lift him back into his powered wheelchair so I telephoned my husband who knows people who work in that office and asked him to find someone who could help.
I didn’t want to pull the emergency cord and have a stranger come in to enquire and then have to explain the situation – the situation was already bad enough! I also didn’t want my son to be upset any more than he already was.
I am a campaigner for Changing Places toilet facilities in Cornwall. There is a video which clearly explains the cord problems which you can view at https://ordinaryhopes.com/2016/09/09/problems/ , I think the video shows it much more clearly.
I would be happy to come in to talk you through the difficulties if that would help.
I look forward to hearing from you and ensuring that other people do not face these same difficulties.
I will be honest, I expected a response which would have made it clear that they were sorry that the facility did not work as well as it should.
I expected a response which would have suggested that they wanted to improve those things which I had identified.
I hoped that they might consider that more fully accessible toilet facilities were needed.
I expected them to at least read all the way to the end!
Do you think they read it?
Here is their response.
Dear Rachel George,
Thank you for contacting Cornwall Council.
The toilets at Boscawen Park are no longer owned by Cornwall Council, they have recently been taken over by Truro City Council. You can contact their clerk, Roger Gazzard, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01872 274766.
Seriously??? Read a complaint before responding!
UPDATE 14th September 2016
After a further e-mail, some correspondence via Twitter and by bringing this blog to their attention, I eventually received a message via Twitter, late in the afternoon of the 13th September.
@ordinaryhopes clearly our 1st response didn’t take account of the issues you raised, we’re sorry about that. Our Property Manager & Facilities Management team would like to meet you to identify how best to manage the facility so it can be of genuine use in the future, please DM us your contact details to arrange a meeting.
I replied more last night but, 24 hours later, they have neither telephoned or sent an e-mail.
Still nothing more than a message via Twitter asking me if I had a reference number. I again forwarded my emails of complaint 24 hours ago.
Do I believe that Cornwall Council cares?
Some days are just hard. Other days are unnecessarily hurtful.