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Let's make the Blue Badge reforms work

Expanding eligibility for badges must be complimented by effective enforcement

Helen Dolphin
09 August 2018
Helen Dolphin MBE
Helen Dolphin MBE

 

On 29 July the Department for Transport (DfT) released its Blue Badge consultation: summary of responses and government response. This followed a public consultation about eligibility issues in relation to the Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Scheme particularly with regards to non-visible disabilities. The consultation received a total of 6,349 responses from members of the public, local authorities, groups representing disabled people and other organisations including People’s Parking.

The current Blue Badge eligibility rules embrace all conditions, physical or otherwise, but the regulations and guidance were not clearly understood. This meant that people with hidden disabilities were therefore finding it difficult to access badges, even though their condition caused them very significant difficulties when undertaking a journey. In order to ensure that those with the greatest needs have access to a Blue Badge, the government has now proposed to introduce the following:

  • A new eligibility criterion for people who have an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that person is unable to walk or undertake a journey without it causing very considerable difficulty when walking.
  • A new eligibility criterion for people who have an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that person is unable to undertake a journey without there being a reasonably foreseeable risk of serious harm to the health and safety of that person or any other person.
  • A new eligibility criterion for people who have an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that person is unable to undertake a journey without it causing very considerable psychological distress to that person.
  • A new eligibility criterion for people who score 10 points under the planning and following journeys activity of Personal Independence Payment by virtue of being unable to undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.
  • Replacing the role of independent mobility assessor with an eligibility assessor as described in the consultation document.

Disability groups have expressed concerns that as more people can now qualify for a badge, there will be additional pressures on existing disabled parking spaces. They wanted to see more spaces provided at the same time that the eligibility was extended. Local authorities were concerned about the number of Blue Badge holders seeking to park as well as the feasibility of providing more disabled parking. 

However, the DfT says that the impact on parking will vary from place to place, depending on factors such as location, population density, current capacity, possible capacity, and more. DfT has also said that councils may need to review parking provision to increase the number of spaces (both in terms of the availability of disabled parking, and the overall number of parking spaces if disabled spaces take up other existing parking spaces).

People’s Parking agrees with the concerns raised by disability groups and local authorities over the impact on parking provision and believe action needs to be taken now. We want to see councils monitoring usage of disabled bays and considering where further bays could be installed. We also urge operators of off-street car parks to start monitoring their disabled bays so if bays are already at full capacity plans can be made to increase provision. 

There are also concerns that more badges in use will mean more abuse and greater pressures on local authority enforcement operations. Local authorities have long reported that the most significant abuse of the scheme is by friends or family members. Misuse of a Blue Badge is already a criminal offence and some authorities do prosecute offenders. However, only 1,131 individuals were prosecuted in England in 2016/17 for misuse of a Blue Badge. The majority of these prosecutions (98%) were targeted at a non-badge holder using another person’s badge. People’s Parking would like to see the government make all local authorities carry out enforcement of the Blue Badge scheme as abuse is only going to get worse with an increased number of badges being issued.

Helen Dolphin MBE is founder and managing director of the People’s Parking accreditation scheme.

www.peoplesparking.org

 
 
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