Those with less visible disabilities are set to benefit from the biggest change in the Blue Badge scheme in 50 years. As of the 15 June 2019 new guidance on Blue Badge parking permits has been rolled out.
The changes will now allow drivers or passengers with dementia, anxiety disorders or reduced mobility to apply for a Blue Badge and take the stress of finding an accessible parking space away.
The anticipation of travel difficulties such as finding a parking space can build on top of the stress of the journey itself. The new guidance will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and other amenities. It will also help combat loneliness by enabling them to stay connected to family and friends.
The expanded scheme coincides with the launch of a new task force to toughen up enforcement and help councils tackle fraudulent use of the badges. At the end of 2018, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of Blue Badges had risen by 45% in 12 months and increased six-fold since 2013.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “As a society, we don’t do enough for people with hidden disabilities.
“I hope this change to Blue Badge guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The review will look at ensuring Blue Badges are used correctly and improving public understanding so that those with hidden disabilities can use the badges with confidence.
Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.
“Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.”
To help councils with the expected increase in applications, the department has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7 million in the first year of the programme.
The Department for Transport has been working with specialists to expand the eligibility criteria for the badges, which will now include people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.
The Blue Badge scheme already means people with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers, as they are less able to take public transport or walk longer distances.
The extension of these badges to those with less visible conditions was announced last summer following an eight-week consultation on widening the eligibility criteria. It is an important part of the government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health.
While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-physical disabilities will qualify for a badge. It will be up to the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, as is currently the case.
Last year, the government set out its plans to improve accessibility across all modes of transport in the Inclusive Transport Strategy which launched on 25 July 2018. The strategy aims to make the UK’s transport network fully inclusive by 2030.