Could you be eligible for a Blue Badge? New guidelines introduced
This summer, the Blue Badge disabled parking scheme underwent some major changes to make it accessible to more people who need it. From August 30th 2019, the eligibility criteria have been broadened, meaning that some people with hidden disabilities such as Parkinson’s, autism, arthritis and dementia may now be eligible for a badge under the new rules.
The Blue Badge scheme was launched in 1971 and allows people with mobility difficulties to park in areas where parking is otherwise restricted, including in disabled bays in car parks, on streets where parking restrictions would otherwise mean a charge or a time limit, and on double yellow lines for up to three hours.
For some people with disabilities, the badge is useful as it allows them to park in a much larger space. For others, the ability to park closer to their destination is more important.
Badges are issued by local councils to individuals and organisations and can be used whether the holder is a driver or a passenger.
Until this year, the criteria for Blue Badge scheme related only to physical disabilities, and often did not take into account fluctuating or unpredictable symptoms, or issues like anxiety or memory loss. With so many grey areas, councils found it difficult to make consistent assessments, and many people reported that they found applying for a Blue Badge stressful. Charities like Parkinson’s UK found themselves having to help their members with the application and assessment process, or advising local authorities on how one condition might affect people in different ways.
However in 2018, after a consultation, the government announced it would be making the biggest changes to the Blue Badge scheme in nearly 50 years. And in August this year, the new criteria were introduced, together with an online quiz, making it easy to check eligibility before applying.
The new guidelines take into account the fact that, for some people with hidden disabilities, travel problems are not necessarily related to their physical ability to walk. Now, the application process includes phrases such as “very considerable difficulty whilst walking”, “very considerable psychological distress” and “risk of serious harm”.
These changes mean that people with conditions like dementia, for whom travelling can sometimes cause a huge amount of anxiety, may now be able to get a Blue Badge even if they were not previously eligible.
Since the new criteria were introduced, councils around the UK have seen an increase in Blue Badge applications. However, local authorities point out that no-one is entitled to a badge solely because of their age, nor will those with “hidden disabilities” be automatically approved. That’s why the new eligibility checker at https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge has been designed to make it easy to find out. If you think you or someone you care for might be eligible for a Blue Badge under the new rules, you can go to the website and follow the simple questions to find out more.