Blue badge scheme extended to those with 'Invisible Illnesses'
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As of today, the blue badge scheme will be available to those with certain invisible or hidden illnesses. This means that tens of thousands more individuals will be able to register for a blue badge, providing them access to disabled parking spots all around the UK.
A press release issued by the government stated that the criteria for blue badges will be extended to include those 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)
As serious injury solicitors who specialise in acting for individuals with a range of hidden disabilities, such as those who have suffered spinal cord and brain injuries, we are unfortunately all too familiar with the barriers to access that our clients face in their day-to-day lives.
Only last month, we launched a national survey which revealed key insights into how the UK public perceives people with a stoma or other invisible illness. A total of 518 respondents took part in our survey, which revealed some eye-opening insights into how aware Britons actually are regarding hidden conditions - and highlighted some key areas where further education might still be needed.
Back in 2017, we ran also a campaign surrounding the theme of accessibility. As part of the campaign we spent an afternoon with Sarah, a client with Potter Rees Dolan who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). Sarah uses a wheelchair to get around and the afternoon was spent exploring just how accessible Manchester city centre is for disabled people. Our findings were quite shocking - in one instance when Sarah attempted to access a disabled toilet at a popular city centre train station, she found it was being used by a member of station staff to park their motorbike in!
The new guidance however, which represents the biggest change to the scheme since the 1970s, will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and leisure amenities. It will also help combat loneliness by enabling individuals with hidden illnesses to stay better connected to their family and friends.
The expanded scheme also coincides with the launch of a new task force which has been put in place to toughen up enforcement and assist councils when tackling fraudulent use of the badges.
It is absolutely right that those who need additional support, whether their condition is visible or not, are able to access it. Increasingly we are hearing stories from people with conditions such as brain injury or those who live with a stoma, whereby they have faced prejudice, and even abuse, when using parking spots or toilets designated for disabled use purely because their conditions may not be apparent to the public. Our recent ‘Stoma Awareness’ survey, which is part of a wider campaign to increase awareness of those living with a stoma, as well as other hidden conditions, revealed some quite surprising results. I am glad that the government is taking steps to help increase awareness and to enable the tens of thousands of people living with such illnesses/conditions access to the help they need.
Helen Dolan is a Senior Partner and Head of Clinical Negligence here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues, or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Helen or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0161 237 5888 or contact Helen directly.
Blue Badge FAQs
Where can you get a badge?
Similar to Radar keys (a skeleton key that opens more than 10,000 locked, disabled toilets in the UK) there is only one official source for blue badges. Blue badge applications can be completed by yourself or on behalf of someone else via the MyGov website, and only via this website.
Be wary of scammers offering blue badges for a reduced price or faster delivery, as it will not be official.
What will you need to apply?
There are a few key items you will need to send over with your application, which include:
- a recent digital photo showing your head and shoulders.
- a photo or scan of your: proof of identity (such as a passport or driving licence); proof of address (less than 12 months old); proof of benefits (if you get any)
- your National Insurance number (if you have one)
- the details of your current Blue Badge (if you’re reapplying)
How long will your badge take to arrive?
Once you have sent off your application, it can take some time for your blue badge to arrive. The government’s website features a useful eligibility checker which will let you know how long it will take your particular council to send your badge to you. The tool also tells you how much your badge is likely to cost you.
If, however, your application for a blue badge is rejected, your local council will give you a reason and you can appeal against this if you feel that an unfair decision has been made. The best people to contact to help with any such appeals processes are Citizens Advice, whose website can be found here.