Changes To The Blue Badge Scheme – August 2019

A Blue Badge enables holders to park in designated spaces for blue badge holders, or on single or double yellow lines for up to 3 hours unless there is a “no loading” sign.

The Blue Badge scheme is a government initiative designed to help those with severe mobility issues, allowing them to them park as close as possible to their desired destination. The scheme was originally implemented in the 1970s, however new changes have been introduced to widen the Blue Badge eligibility criteria, to include those with hidden disabilities such as autism. These changes are set to roll out in August 2019 and are the biggest overhaul to the system in over 40 years.

The current system makes it difficult for those with hidden disabilities to qualify for a Blue Badge, as its rules focus on an individual’s ability to walk, and the distance they are able to walk. Further modifications made it the system in 2014, meant that many with hidden disabilities such as autism couldn’t get a badge.

The New Criteria

The government is driving for greater parity for physical and mental health conditions – those with mental health conditions often struggle with the same issues as those with physical disabilities, however, mental health issues can sometimes appear ‘invisible’ to the eye of the beholder.

The new rules will also allow individual local authorities to use a wider range of professionals to assess the nature and effects of an applicant’s particular disability and also removes the necessity of requiring an independent mobility assessor.

The new criteria defined by the government will extend eligibility to people 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)

Cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress

Have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking)”

What Is A Hidden Disability?

A hidden disability is something defined as not immediately apparent but can have a major impact on people’s lives. Some common hidden disabilities which may impact people’s lives include the following, amongst others:

  • Autism
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Irritable Bowel Diseases
  • Lupus
  • Bipolar
  • ME
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Other mental health disorders or learning difficulties

How Will the Scheme Be Beneficial?

Many individuals with hidden disabilities face a range of difficulties and complex situations on a daily basis which may not be recognised by some. Disorders, such as autism or anxiety, can mean that merely leaving the house is a massive challenge involving detailed preparation, not only for the individual but also for their families and carers.

Public transport is not accessible to all, and for many the use of their car is essential – however, the prospect of not being able to park and having a longer stressful walk from the car to the destination may be enough to deter those with a hidden disability from leaving the house.

The scheme intends to extend equality to those with hidden disabilities, providing them with more confidence to visit friends, go shopping and work independently. It also allows parents and carers of individuals with severe autism or other hidden disabilities to ensure safer outings, enabling them to participate in some of the everyday activities which many people take for granted, but which without the help of a Blue Badge may simply not be possible, leaving such individuals largely house bound and at the risk of isolation.

How To Apply For A New Blue Badge

Those with a disability or health condition, or those which care for a child with a disability or health condition, can apply for a Blue Badge. Some local councils allow Blue Badge applications on a paper form, otherwise applications and renewals can be made at https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge

The badge costs up to £10 in England, £20 in Scotland and is free in Wales. The following documents are necessary for application:

  • A recent digital photo showing the face, head and shoulders
  • Proof of identity (passport or driver’s license)
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of benefits (if in receipt of any benefits)
  • National Insurance number
  • Details of current Blue Badge (in cases of reapplication)

Applications are sent to local authorities, who will make a decision within 12 weeks.