Purpose of Blue Badge Scheme
Blue Badge disabled parking enforcement is set to become more vigorous as the scheme is extended to let motorists with less visible, less obvious issues park in designated bays from August 30th 2019. As things stand, motorists that face obvious, physical challenges might qualify for a badge. The recipients can therefore:
- use designated bays close to shops
- find it easier to get out and about
- be less likely to feel isolated
- stay independent
Physical and mental challenges
Current badge holders might require a wheelchair, for instance. Others can walk but not too far. These are obvious physical challenges that can be seen. However, the expansion of the scheme recognises there are people that struggle due to ‘hidden disabilities’. Dementia and anxiety are amongst the cited examples.
Motorists that have mental health problems can feel confused, flustered, and alarmed and find everyday tasks such as parking tough. They are therefore more likely to stay home. Isolation is not necessarily healthy. Furthermore, it is better for the economy to have people in the shops, spending money, and fully engaged with society. The Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, said:
‘It is unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities face discrimination when using disabled facilities such as parking spaces. Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment. It ensures those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives’, Tomlinson concluded.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, also backed the new rules: ‘The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England. Just leaving the house is incredibly difficult for many autistic people and involves detailed preparation.’ She added:
‘Some autistic people have no concept of the dangers of the road. Other are so anxious about plans going wrong – like not being able to find a parking bay – that they do not go out. A Blue Badge will be life changing and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.’
New task force to punish misuse
The Blue Badge scheme’s extension coincides with tougher enforcement to stop those without legitimate need parking in designated bays. This is an increasing issue. In late 2018, the Local Government Association concluded the theft of badges had risen 45% in 1 year. A new task force will therefore decide how to:
- ensure councils throughout the country punish offenders consistently
- minimise fraud and misuse
- increase public awareness so motorists with hidden disabilities can use the badge without fear of recrimination.