Sainsbury’s – the excuse list…

This is a copy of the “reasons” that Sainsbury’s gives as they refuse to improve their toilet facilities in their Penzance store, despite knowing that my son, and hundreds of thousands of people across the UK, cannot access them.

This child had a bad experience in their Penzance store, which continued to affect him long after leaving the store. He was physically unable to go out later that day due his wheelchair needing to be cleaned and he has felt emotionally unable to go back since, because the same thing is likely to happen. Their initial response was to invite him in to collect some free stuff – clearly they have no idea of the reality of life for him and no value for his right to dignity!

We have continued to ask Sainsbury’s to improve and this is their current excuse list, with my amendments in blue.

Dear Ms George, (Mrs)

Thank you for your patience while we gathered information from a number of Sainsbury’s colleagues before coming back to you with a full response.

Firstly and most importantly, I’d like to apologise unreservedly for any upset our previous responses may have caused. I understand you feel they were insensitive and lacking in compassion. That was most certainly not our intension. (Inviting a person in to soil themselves because you haven’t changed anything is rather insensitive)

I appreciate the response below is not the response you’ll have been hoping for in relation to Adam’s case. I’d like to take this opportunity to put it into context, clarifying our commitments to supporting our customers’ needs as much as possible.

As my colleague mentioned, Sainsbury’s has been consistently working with a disability consultant, looking at how we can improve our facilities for disabled customers. This has included reviewing the feasibility of installing Changing Place (CP) facilities. It is, in part, because of this work that we’ve improved our toilet facilities for people with non-visible disabilities and have piloted the installation of a CP facility in our Redhill store. (You made it nicer for people who could already use the facilities)

The CP pilot at our Redhill stores is happening for a number of reasons. For instance, we need to assess: 

If the installation of a CP facility can sit within a store’s current design, as well as its facility management systems (of course it can – what nonsense!)
What the positive and negative impact on customers could be. In particular we must understand:

If the room is capable of withstanding the reinforcement to ceilings, floor and/or walls required for the installation of CP facilities (Many types of ceiling hoist are available, including ones which use the strength of the floor – are you suggesting that your floors and ceilings are substandard?)

Likely usage of CP facilities (Really??? You have a child pleading for one here!)

Impact on families with babies/young children and those with disabilities who do not require CP facilities as we re-engineer the space (You have facilities on two floors that all other people can use. If one of the large baby changing rooms was converted, some people would have to use the lift to get to a different floor in order to change their baby. I have a feeling that the majority of parents would gladly do this in order that disabled people can access one toilet in the building. Plus, this work should only take a couple of days.)

The likelihood of anti-social behaviour and how we might mitigate this. (How do you deal with this issue for all other aspects of your supermarket?)

How robust the equipment would be in a store setting, and how we would incorporate or upgrade the maintenance regime and up-skill colleagues in the maintenance of CP facilities. (The equipment is robust enough for theme parks, service stations, schools and a host of other places and a service contract ensures that they are maintained properly)

Additional challenges often present themselves during this type of trial and it’s important for us to learn from these. For example, we identified snagging issues with the CP facilities in Redhill. (Many professional companies install this equipment and the Changing Places Consortium has existed for almost 12 years – maybe you could use their expertise?)

I notice you’ve drawn comparisons between the installations of Argos stores and CP facilities at Sainsbury’s. This is another good example of our approach and focus on achieving the best facilities in the best possible way. Sainsbury’s has been installing counters and concessions in stores for decades and always carried out pilots and post implementation reviews before introducing a phased roll-out across hundreds of stores.

While the installation of an Argos store is unlikely to pose significant safety issues, by comparison the hasty installation of mechanised lifting equipment required for CP facilities could carry a much higher risk if this is not closely managed. (Struggling to not giggle at this – “mechanise lifting equipment” makes it sound rather huge, so I thought a picture would explain better)

This one is at Heartlands and is so simple and safe that a child can operate it.

Our approach to CP, and which of our stores are installed with CP facilities, has to be informed by the evaluation of the Redhill pilot. Some of the factors likely to influence our approach, as well as next steps, are: 

Space – is there a suitable 12m² space available (This is a recommendation – not essential)

Local demographics to help us understand disability incidence across the UK and how this compares to our store locations, as well as their suitability for the installation of CP facilities (Disability doesn’t just occur in neat pockets across the country and, right now, you have a request for this particular store so that you can make it right for a child who endured harm in your store)

Our building programme (Is this not something which should respond to needs)

The availability of other CP facilities in the vicinity (In Penzance there are none within many miles in the evening and at weekends, besides, the attitude to regular toilets does not depend on other facilities in the area)

While we have taken Adam’s case as a factor in this strategy, I understand that, unfortunately, the space identified in the Penzance store doesn’t currently meet the 12m2 recommended space for a CP facility. For this reason and those highlighted above, we’re unable to commit to installing a CP facility in Penzance at this time. (You have used the word “recommended” because it is a recommendation, not essential. The room is only a bit smaller than the recommended size so please don’t use it as an excuse to continue to treat a child as less than human.)

I apologise once again for any disappointment this may cause, but hope this detail puts our commitments into context. (Are you apologising for any soiling that will occur as well?)

Kind regards

Sandra K
Executive Office
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd


Please feel free to add your own comments to help Sainsbury’s understand that this matters and that it is not okay to give a list of waffling excuses, when there is a simple improvement which can be made.

18 thoughts on “Sainsbury’s – the excuse list…

  1. I am saddened by the response Sainsbury’s have given – Adam is only asking for a toilet which he can use. Those excuses are “ridiculous” are they being serious, surely not…anti social behaviour?! I am a parent of a 7 year old full time wheelchair user who most of the time cannot go shopping due to the lack of facilities, people really need to start understanding we are not asking for the world just a place to go to the toilet or be changed. I wonder how the manager of this store would feel if they were told they had to go home every time they needed to use the toilet, every day no matter where or what they were doing. Maybe they should try that and see how they feel!


    1. It is a hurtful response, and clearly took a lot of time to produce. They could have installed a hoist and bench in the time it took them to come up with that list!


  2. Seriously Sainsbury !!!!. …..apart from the fact this is a PERSON …..acustomer….their rights to be protected from degrading treatment are affected …..your attitude and therefore your reputation is now questionable.
    Maybe the changing places should hold a pants down protest….better still Sandra K could show a willingness to understand the individuals perspective….as she expects you to understand Sainsbury’s ….by spend a day in a wheelchair ….without access to an appropriate toilet 🤔


    1. I think she would gain a lot from that experience. Can we make it a week though so that her bladder and body get the full effect of not being able to go when you need and therefore be unable to drink when you need to?


      1. I don’t require a changging places toilet just a regular disabled one but so few of those sre adequate that I frequently go without drinking and dehydrate and make myself ill because I can’t trust ui can get to a suitable loo. Yes, I agree that lady should have to experience that discomfort too


  3. Every store should now cater for all. We are in 2018 where everyone is equal and everyone matters regardless of gender, opinion, health problems or disabilities visible or invisible. I am saddened and disturbed that these needs cannot be rectified so that all of the above can use the store without any anxiety or fear that they cannot use the toilet (a basic human need and right) I will no longer be shopping at any sainsbury store unless this can be sorted. I find it discriminatory.


    1. Thank you. Please do share your feeling directly with Sainsbury’s too. Asking for a usable toilet should result in a usable toilet, not a list of excuses. Six months is a long time, especially when they know that the child asking had a bad experience.


  4. Well I visited a brand new store in Kendal & guess what no Changing Places. Nice disabled loo & baby change though. Only been open a few weeks so what is the excuse here. The disabled loo could have easily been a combined facility. Disgusting.


    1. That is disgusting of them. If they really did want to “review” and expand their single store status for Changing Places toilet provision, each new store should have one as a matter of course. They know the need. Sainsbury’s is actively choosing to ignore the needs of some disabled people.


  5. Sadly this Excuse list seems typical of lots of Public and Private Sectors. !!! So annoying and upsetting for us in our Disabled Community. I truly hope that the push to get a Bill through Parliament just now / the Bill will become Law – that at least every New Build will have to provide a Changing Place. But we just have to keep Campaigning for our Families who cannot use ordinary Disabled Facilities. This is 2018 and we are ignored and overlooked by most Organisations over and over again. Thank you to Everyone for your Dedication to make Change Happen !!


  6. I would send this to the local or even national papers.

    Disgusting attitude! And awful excuses.

    Young people like Adam deserve better!

    It’s 2018… And there are people who can’t even go to the toilet when out. We are not a 3rd world Country. I just do not understand this.

    I have so much respect for you and all the other parent carers and other campaigners for changing places, as if you don’t have enough going on (as a parent carer myself, I understand the appointments and meetings and paperwork- oh the paperwork!), and then to have the patience to deal with muppets like this.

    I live near Redhill, I think I might pop in one day this week and leave a comment about how good it is to have a CP there. See if I can’t get more customers to also back this up.

    We do what can as parents for our kids, it’s sad to see how much you and others like mum on mission and don’t pass the buck have to do just for basic human rights

    We stand with you though.


  7. Well, let’s see here, Sainsbury makes it quite obvious they feel that disabled people should not be part of society, I mean this is a company who hands over CCTV footage to DWP so that DWP may use the footage against claimants when they apply for PIP, ESA etc.

    So, unfortunately, no surprise they won’t even consider installing a toilet your son can use. The excuses given are so blatantly feeble and pathetic it goes beyond discrimination and persecution!!

    My advice is to get in touch with EHRC and tell them of this situation and Sainsbury’s response and see if this case can go to court.

    Good luck and best wishes


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