For many years Disabled Motoring UK has advocated the best way to enforce the Blue Badge scheme is by prosecuting all offenders. We have long believed that the best way to preserve its integrity is through proper management of the scheme and sanctions for those who abuse it.
But it has come to DMUK’s attention that East Sussex County Council is having success with protecting the scheme through a slightly different system. The council is still using prosecutions when necessary for people who are persistent offenders, alter badges or are using a deceased person’s badge. However, East Sussex also uses a Local Resolution Order (LRO) initiative for first time offenders who are committing minor offences. The best way to describe this is like a ‘speed awareness course’ for Blue Badge misuse – maybe a Blue Badge Awareness course!
For those who are caught misusing the badge, for example they are using a relative’s badge without the badge holder being present, the offender can opt to take the LRO instead of being prosecuted. If they chose to do this the person has to pay £100 administration fee and attend the awareness course.
Currently this is being carried out online, but it used to take place in groups at East Sussex County Council before the COVID-19 pandemic. The course features an impactful video which highlights how important Blue Badge parking is to disabled people and features several case studies of real disabled people living in East Sussex. The video then goes on to highlight how people abusing the scheme affects the availability of suitable parking for Blue Badge holders and what consequences this has on their lives.
East Sussex County Council outlines how it loses roughly £150,000 in parking revenue because people abusing the scheme should be paying to park. There is therefore less money for the council to put back into social care to support disabled people in other ways.
The video ends with the police stating that it is a criminal offence to abuse the scheme and if prosecuted you could get a criminal record which could affect your entire life.
After the video, Mark Jobling, East Sussex’s Blue Badge Investigations Officer, leads a discussion with the offenders. A warning letter is also sent to the Blue Badge holder stating it is their responsibility to look after the badge and not let others use it. They are told if this happens again the badge may be withdrawn and cancelled.
The council says that finds this system very effective when it comes to educating offenders about the Blue Badge scheme and its proper use. They carry out roughly 100-150 LROs every year. The LRO scheme is a good way of being proportionate to the offence incurred and increases education of the scheme. They rarely see re-offending once a person has gone through this process.
Mark Jobling said: “After the success we have had since introducing this scheme, we have been asked about it by various other counties including Kent and hopefully they too will successfully adopt this process. We are very happy to share it with those who might be interested. Just seeing disabled people on screen telling their stories about how they are affected by this misuse is very powerful and send a message to those who have offended. Who will hopefully think twice about reoffending?”
After chatting to Mark Jobling, we saw hat this LRO scheme is providing effective results in East Sussex. It seems like an excellent way of policing the scheme and protecting its integrity for genuine users. It also removes a lot of the ‘red tape’ and time that prosecuting offenders involves and maybe a more practical tool for local authorities to enforce the Blue Badge scheme. We would like to see more local authorities adopt this type of Blue Badge enforcement.
Heidi Turner is campaigns and communications director of Disabled Motoring UK
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