From August 30, drivers with ‘hidden disabilities’ will be eligible for a Blue Badge permit
From 30 August 2019, drivers with ‘hidden disabilities’ will be eligible for a Blue Badge parking permit.
This change is the biggest since the disabled scheme started back in 1970 and will be available to those who suffer from issues including dementia, autism and anxiety disorders.
These changes mean that from the end of summer, those suffering from a mental health issue will be able to apply to their local council for a badge.
A Blue Badge parking permit allows the holder to use disabled parking spaces, park for free in pay-and-display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines and in London, they are exempt from having to pay congestion charges.
The AA and mental health charities have welcomed the change, however, some critics believe the move could result in a shortage of parking spaces for other road users, even for those with physical disabilities and could widen the increase of fraud which is at present said to be extensive.
Currently, there are 2.4million Blue Badge holders in England, with a recent survey in city centres suggesting that between 36% and 54% of parked vehicles had one on display already.
The Government have admitted that they’ve no idea how many more people will now become eligible.
It’s been estimated that there’s 700,000 people in the UK suffering from autism, around 850,000 with dementia and almost three million with anxiety disorders. However, not everyone will apply for a badge and some might be refused if they do apply.
The reforms have been welcomed by Paul Slowey of Blue Badge Fraud Investigation, which helps councils tackle the issue of fraud, however he did warn of problems if the rules are not enforced.
“It’s clear that people with hidden and non-physical disabilities need badges. But confidence in the Blue Badge scheme is undermined by the fact that only a minority of councils take action against misuse,” said Mr Slowey.
In England, two out of every five councils confess to not prosecuting drivers who misuse a disabled parking permit, which carries a hefty fine of up to £1,000.
According to the Local Government Association (LGA), Blue Badge theft has increased by 45% in just one year and six-fold since 2013, with estimates suggesting that one in five badges are misused. These figures include valid holders letting family members and friends use their badge when they themselves are not in the vehicle.
A new task force will be set up by the Government to help councils deal with issues of fraud and local authorities will receive an extra £1.7million to help them manage the expected stream of applications.
“The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England, helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted,” said Jane Harris of the National Autistic Society.
Edmund King, president of the AA said: “Non-physical disabilities can be just as debilitating as physical disabilities, and we welcome this long-overdue announcement,” also adding: “This is an ideal opportunity to get all local authorities to implement the law.”
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