I’m campaigning to have nappy changing stations in every cafe and restaurant in the UK
The other day my NCT group were visiting a cafe popular with parents and babies in Hammersmith. My friend Rachel, a GP, arrived with her baby who needs a nappy change. “I don’t think they have a changing station here," another mum says. So Rachel had to change her baby on the bathroom floor.
Out of curiosity, I approach the counter and ask the server where their baby changing facilities are. Surely they have a station in a place like this, which is always full of parents and babies? The owner happens to be at the till and intervenes. “We don’t have a changing station,” she says, defensively. “It’s a deliberate choice. We don’t want the expense or the smell.”
Surely every child has the right to get changed with dignity, and in a safe and sanitary way?
I return to our table, frustrated but not surprised. This is just one of the many of the eye opening aspects of becoming a parent.
Amongst our group, we decide this isn’t right. Surely every child has the right to get changed with dignity, and in a safe and sanitary way?
Later I start to change my baby Annie’s nappy in her pram, struggling to avoid getting you-know-what on its lining. It was at that moment I decided we should do something about this. That’s when the idea for Annie’s Law was born, a campaign we have launched to make it a legal requirement for places like cafes and restaurants to have a baby changing station.
Because turns out having one is optional for places that serve food and drink. It’s not even a legal requirement in public or council buildings. In fact, there’s even an app that recommends the best places to do a quick nappy change when you are out and about.
I discuss all of this over the phone with Raymond Martin, director of the British Toilet Association, who has been campaigning on these issues for years. Tragically, his wife died in childbirth, leaving him struggling to change his two daughters’ nappies when he was out and about. Unsurprisingly, changing stations provision in men’s loos is abysmal, which meant Raymond had to try and blag his way into the women’s toilets to get access to the changing station. It’s what inspired him to get into the toilet business in the first place. He backs our campaign 100 per cent.
“There’s a clear economic argument," he tells me, “ the provision of good loos brings money.” He couldn’t be more right. Parents (mostly Mums) bring business during off peak hours to places like the cafe we were in. Having good provisions for parents will attract business.
What’s more, the cost of a changing station and having a bin collected is as little as £150. That’s worth it and will pay for itself.
An amendment to the Public Health Act 1848 to mandate a baby changing station in all places serving food and drink would achieve this quickly. We are approaching this campaign old-school style. So far we’ve started a parliamentary petition and gathered 30 local Hammersmith and Chiswick residents to write to our MPs Ruth Cadbury and Andy Slaughter.
We’ve also approached Joanna Cherry, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities committee. Nokes has already written back to me to agree that this is an important issue for parents. We emailed Stella Creasy, Munira Wilson and Siobhan Baillie too give their important focus on children in their parliamentary work.
I hope they will agree that this is a no brainer. After posting the petition online, I received hundreds of messages in support from up and down the country from parents. Because every baby should be able to get changed safely and with dignity – no matter where they are.
Lucy Dargahi is currently on maternity leave from the public sector. To find our more visit annieslaw.co.uk
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