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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Blue badge scheme to provide ‘lifeline’ for mentally ill people

Date: 1/8/2018
Summary: The “blue badge” scheme, which allows people with disabilities to park close to their destinations – including on yellow lines – is to be extended to those with hidden conditions, such as mental health difficulties, in the biggest change to the system in 40 years.

The new rules, which could benefit millions of people, will come into effect early next year, in what ministers say is part of a move to give equal treatment to those with physical and mental health issues.

The new criteria will extend eligibility to those who cannot undertake a journey “without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism)”. They will also include those who cannot do so without it causing them “very considerable psychological distress and those [who] have very considerable difficulty when walking”.

The change, which follows an eight-week consultation by the Department for Transport, was welcomed as a “massive step” and a “lifeline” by the National Autistic Society. Its director of external affairs, Jane Harris, said: “Just leaving the house is a challenge for many of the 600,000 autistic people in England, involving detailed preparation and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong. Some autistic people might not be aware of the dangers of the road or become overwhelmed by busy or loud environments. The possibility of not being able to find a parking space near where you’re going can mean you can’t contemplate leaving the house at all.

“A blue badge will be a lifeline and prevent a life of isolation. The existing rules are too focused on physical ability to walk and meant many autistic people didn’t qualify, reducing their independence. The National Autistic Society and our supporters have been raising this issue with the government for many years. We’re thrilled they have listened to the concerns of autistic people and their families, and put this right by taking into account their needs for certainty and safety.

“It’s vital these changes are implemented fully and quickly, and that all decisions about whether someone is entitled to a blue badge are taken by people who understand autism.”

Although the exact rules vary between local authorities, which issue the badges, holders can park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours, except in many cases where there are restrictions on loading or unloading. Badge holders may also park for free at many parking meters and pay-and-display machines, though they must use the badge clock to show the time they arrived.

The transport minister, Jesse Norman, said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.” The minister for disabled people, health and work, Sarah Newton, said: “It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.”

About 2.4 million people have blue badges in England. The changes are also intended to streamline the system, putting an end to a postcode lottery under which local authorities apply eligibility criteria differently.

The system has been open to fraud in the past, with people who are not eligible borrowing or inheriting badges from those who made genuine applications. In 2010 the Audit Commission found 16,535 blue badges were still in operation despite the death of their registered holders.

Source: The Guardian


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