The biggest change to the Blue Badge scheme since the 1970s recently came into force. We reveal what has changed and how you can apply for a Blue Badge.
Blue Badge scheme changes
On 30 August 2019, the Blue Badge scheme changed, making people with 'hidden disabilities' such as autism and dementia eligible for the scheme.
We reveal everything you need to know about the changes and how to apply for a Blue Badge.
What is the Blue Badge scheme?
The Blue Badge scheme was introduced as a way of helping people who are blind or have physical mobility problems park closer to their destination.
The badge is linked to the disabled person rather than a vehicle. It can be used for cars the badge owner is driving themselves or travelling in as a passenger, which includes taxis and hire cars.
There are around 2.35 million Blue Badge holders in the UK as of 31 March 2018.
What are the changes to eligibility?
The Department of Transport has announced that eligibility for a Blue Badge has been expanded.
It now includes people with non-visible disabilities who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.
This relates to conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, anxiety disorders and brain injuries.
Wales and Scotland have already brought in similar rules, but in Northern Ireland the criteria remains unchanged.
To help councils with the forecast hike in applications, the UK Government will provide an additional £1.7 million in funding in the first year of the scheme.
Yet research by insurance comparison website Confused.com has revealed in council-owned car parks, there is currently only one disabled bay available for every 30 Blue Badge holders.
Without increased provision, competition for disabled bay parking spaces is likely to become more intense.
Graham Footer, chief executive of campaigning charity Disabled Motoring UK expressed concern that the new proposals aren't adequately funded.
“It's clear that people with certain mental health conditions and cognitive disabilities could benefit from having a Blue Badge,” says Footer.
“But with the increase in Blue Badge holders that will arise from these changes, it's especially important there is proper enforcement, otherwise the value of the badge will be undermined.”
Who can apply for a Blue Badge?
Some people are automatically eligible for a Blue Badge.
For example, if you are registered blind or get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), you are eligible.
The full criteria is available from the Gov.uk website.
Other disabled people, including those with non-visible disablities may also be eligible, but this is assessed on an individual basis by local councils.
Parents and carers of a child with a disability can apply for a Blue Badge on their behalf.
Blue Badge applications can be made online via the Gov.uk website or by contacting your local authority directly.
A Blue Badge costs up to £10 in England and £20 in Scotland and usually lasts for up to three years. Blue Badges are free in Wales.
Where can a Blue Badge be used?
Blue Badges usually allows free parking at the following locations:
- On streets with parking meters or Pay and Display machines for as long as is needed;
- In disabled parking bays for as long as needed unless a sign says there is a time limit;
- On single or double yellow lines for up to three hours unless there's a 'no loading' sign
Local authority off-street car parks also have spaces reserved for disabled motorists.
These spaces may be free of charge, offer a discount or concession (such as three hours for the price of two) or charge the standard fee.
The rules vary between councils and Blue Badge holders will be given local information along with their badge.
Private car parks such as those at supermarkets and train stations tend to have spaces reserved for Blue Badge holders.
Drivers may have to pay a charge, but a concession is likely.
“It's vital to remember that Blue Badge parking concessions and charges can vary between local authorities and private parking companies,” comments Footer.
“Our advice is to always check the signage, so you're aware of any charges or time limits and don't accidentally get a parking ticket.”
Blue Badge holders can also apply for an exemption from the London Congestion Charge. More information can be found at TFL.
Fines for parking in a disabled bay
Obviously no-one should park in a bay reserved for disabled people.
But if you park in a local authority disabled bay, you will be liable for a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
There are two levels of PCN charges and the fine for parking in a disabled bay is set at the higher rate.
In London, it is £130 for the higher rate while outside London it is £70. You can get a 50% discount on the charge if you pay the PCN within 14 days.
In car parks such as the ones at supermarkets or train stations, any fines for parking in disabled bays are more difficult to enforce.
This is because the laws related to parking on private land are under contract law and differ from local authority regulations.
“We run a campaign, Baywatch, monitoring the abuse of disabled bays in supermarket car parks," says Footer.
“The 2019 results revealed that one in five bays is occupied by a vehicle without an accompanying Blue Badge.
“With the anticipated increase in Blue Badge holders as a result of the changes in legislation, it's especially vital to step up enforcement and to raise awareness among the general public about why these bays should be respected.”
Can I challenge a PCN?
If you get think you’ve incorrectly been given a PCN, you can make challenge it – you have 28 days to do this.
You need to explain your reasons for challenging the charge and provide copies of any evidence to support your challenge.
If your challenge is rejected, you will then get a ‘notice to owner,’ which explains how to pay or how to make a formal challenge.
For more details on the appeals process, check out this useful page on the Gov.uk website.
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