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How Wales understands the true value of public toilets

28/04/2014

How Wales understands the true value of public toilets

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Here’s a statistic that might surprise you – according to the British Toilet Association, there has been a 40 per cent drop in the number of UK public toilets available in the past 10 years.

So what? you might be thinking. All the public toilets I’ve ever used have been filthy.

And it’s true that not everyone’s experience of public hygiene facilities is positive. The worst anecdotes feature walls scrawled with graffiti, toilet bowls caked with dirt and sinks that are about as hygienic as the litter-strewn pavements outside. In 2005, two thirds of 2,000 adults surveyed by the National Consumer Council said they were disgusted by the state of public toilets in the UK.

Yet, if such facilities were more valued in society, these hygiene nightmares might not be so rife.

It’s a problem that the Welsh government are doing their best to address, having recently announced plans to give local councils strict guidelines on the maintenance, upkeep and frequency of washrooms in local areas. It’s a draft law, according to the BBC, aimed at improving the state of public health.

How hygiene facilities can help the most vulnerable

Talking to the BBC, Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said, "We know that if people are not confident that they will have the facilities they need then it has a distorting effect on their lives.

"They stay at home when they would like to go out. They don't take tablets that they need to take in order to be able to go out.

"And for older people, people with some mental health conditions, people with young families and children, the fact that they need to be confident that there are proper facilities that they can use if they want to be out in our society is a genuine public health issue."

Due to the extra cost of facilities (The Aberdeenshire Council estimates that unattended public toilets cost between £4,400 and £11,900 per annum) , few governments like to recognise the real help that well-maintained public toilets can have on some of the most vulnerable in the community, so the Welsh Assembly should be applauded for their altruistic aim.

More than this, an effective hygiene facility will also allow anyone “on the go” to wash their hands and maintain good hygiene as they battle against the dirt and grime of the streets.

As Welsh public toilets clean up their act, we can only hope that other businesses and retail outlets realise the importance of a high-quality washroom to help themselves and the general public.