Public consultation launched to extend the blue badge scheme to include drivers with autism & dementia
A new public consultation is underway which if given the go ahead, could see drivers with hidden disabilities being eligible for a blue badge permit.
Motorists suffering from hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia and ME would benefit from the consultation proving positive, which would allow them to apply for a disabled blue badge permit.
According to the Department for Transport (DfT), if the measures were to be passed, this “would herald the most significant changes since the blue badge was introduced in 1970″ and would create “parity” between mental and physical health.
Currently in England, there’s around 2.4 million drivers with blue badge permits which enable the holder of the permit to park on streets with parking meters for free, as well as being able to park in dedicated blue badge spaces and on single or double yellow lines for a maximum of three hours without worrying about getting into trouble with the law.
Automatic eligibility for a blue badge is provided through a number of benefits, such as the War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement and the High Rate Disability Living Allowance.
However, motorists suffering from a hidden disability such as autism, dementia and ME are not classed as being eligible for a badge unless the applicant is “unable to walk” or has “very considerable difficulty in walking, in addition to their condition.”
Highlighted in the consultation document was the fact that some local councils are happy to issue blue badges to drivers with non-physical disabilities, whereas as others are “unwilling to issue a badge if the condition does not manifest itself physically.”
As a result, the consultation will look into how certain phrases are worded such as “very considerable difficulty in walking”, to decide whether mental disabilities should also enable people to be classed as eligible under that stipulation, or whether the stipulation should be rewritten altogether.
“We want to try to extend this to people with invisible disabilities, so they can enjoy the freedom to get out and about,” said Transport Minister Jesse Norman whilst announcing the public consultation.
Head of policy at the National Autistic Society, Sarah Lambert, welcomed the plans, saying: “There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people in the UK and whilst every person on the autism spectrum is different, for some, not being able to park in a predictable place close to a destination can cause a great deal of anxiety and put their safety at risk.”
Concerns were raised however about the blue badge and its continued misuse. The DfT back in 2016 revealed there was an 84% growth in prosecutions concerning the misuse of blue badge permits in the UK and most of them related to people using a badge owned by someone else.
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