It’s the biggest change to Blue Badge guidelines in 50 years and is aimed at making travel more accessible to more people.
Here’s everything you need to know about the changes.
What is the Blue Badge scheme?
The Blue Badge scheme already allows people with physical disabilities to park closer to their destination than other drivers since they are less able to take public transport or walk long distances.
Around 2.4 million people with disabilities in England already have a Blue Badge parking permit, but under the new guidelines, people with hidden disabilities can apply for one.
Depending on the location, the permits often enable holders to park free of charge in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines, while in London they exempt holders from the congestion charge.
Who qualifies for a Blue Badge under the new guidelines?
The extension of the criteria now includes people with less visible conditions which make it difficult to walk.
This includes people who can’t walk the course of a journey because of physical difficulties, because they could cause harm to others or because walking causes them considerable psychological distress.
Under the new rules, you may be eligible for a badge if one or more of the following applies:
- you cannot walk at all
- you cannot walk without help from someone else or using mobility aids
- you find walking very difficult due to pain, breathlessness or the time it takes
- walking is dangerous to your health and safety
- you have a terminal illness, which means you cannot walk or find walking very difficult and have a DS1500 form
- you have a severe disability in both arms and drive regularly, but cannot operate pay-and-display parking machines
- you have a child under the age of three with a medical condition that means the child always needs to be accompanied by bulky medical equipment
- you have a child under the age of three with a medical condition that means the child must always be kept near a vehicle in case they need emergency medical treatment
- you are constantly a significant risk to themselves or others near vehicles, in traffic or car parks
- you struggle severely to plan or follow a journey
- you find it difficult or impossible to control your actions and lack awareness of the impact you could have on others
- you regularly have intense and overwhelming responses to situations causing temporary loss of behavioural control
- you frequently become extremely anxious or fearful of public/open spaces
How do I apply for a Blue Badge?
You can apply for a badge for yourself, on behalf of somebody else or an organisation that transports people that need a Blue Badge.
In England, Scotland and Wales you can apply on gov.uk for a Blue Badge.
To apply for a Blue Badge, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, proof of address, a recent head and shoulders digital photo, your national insurance number if you have one, and your contact details.
You’ll also need proof of any benefits you’re receiving, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Armed Forces Compensation Scheme or War Pensioners’ Mobility Scheme.
If you are applying without one of the benefits, the application will need to be assessed by the issuing local council.
To help assess the application, you’ll be asked to provide extra information depending on the answers you give when you are checking eligibility.
If you cannot walk or find walking difficult or you have a non-visible (hidden) condition, you will be asked to provide details of relevant medication and treatments.
You might also be asked details of any healthcare professionals that have been involved in treating your condition, and any supporting documents such as prescriptions and diagnosis letters.
If you cannot walk or find walking difficult, you will also be asked questions around how your condition affects your walking.
If you have a non-visible (hidden) condition, you will also be asked questions around how journeys between your vehicle and destination are affected by your condition.
Your local council will decide if you are eligible for a badge and they’ll need all the necessary documentation before they can process your application. The assessment could take up to 12 weeks.
If they decide that you are not eligible and you think that they did not take account of all the facts, you can ask them to consider your application again.
Why has the guidance been updated?
The new guidance, which is the biggest change to the scheme since the 1970s, is part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, which launched on 25 July 2018.
It aims to make the UK’s transport network fully inclusive by 2030.
The new guidance is aimed at making road travel easier for more people by providing better access to work and other amenities, and it’s hoped it will help combat loneliness by allowing people to stay connected with family and friends.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We know that for some people, the possibility of not being able to find a parking space can make even leaving the house a challenge, which is why the Blue Badge is so important.
“The scheme, which is already a lifeline for so many disabled people, will make a huge difference to those with non-visible conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis.
“It is my sincere wish that these changes will improve even more people’s lives.”
The review will also look at ensuring that there is greater public awareness of which groups are eligible for a badge, when it can and cannot be used, and how to surrender the badge when it is no longer needed, for example if the badge holder dies.