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Blue badge parking: What you need to know

As the criteria for hidden disabilities expands, drivers with disabilities still struggle to find a space.

There's high demand for blue badge parking bays in the UK. One council-owned space to every 38 blue badge holders, in fact.

Blue badge parking space

In August 2019, the blue badge parking scheme was extended to those who have hidden disabilities. 

The blue badge rules changed so those with less visible disabilities, such as dementia and anxiety disorders, can apply for a badge.

Councils created 1,800 spaces in response to the scheme change. But an extra 35,000 people applied for a blue badge in 2020 - making it an even tighter squeeze.

To make matters worse, nearly two million drivers** admit to misusing blue badge parking spaces. 

So, what can you do if you see someone misusing a bay? And how do you qualify for a Blue Badge under the new scheme? Let’s find out. 

 

Blue badge rules: Who can get one?

You can check if you’re eligible for the blue badge parking scheme on GOV.UK

In some circumstances you’ll automatically be able to get a Blue Badge. For example, if:

  • You get the higher rate of the mobility component as part of the disability living allowance
  • You get certain benefits from the armed and reserved forces and have a permanent, substantial disability that greatly affects your ability to walk
  • You get a personal independence payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres
  • You’re registered blind or severely sight impaired
  • You get a War Pensioners Mobility Supplement.

Blue Badges are available in England and Wales. There are separate schemes for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can find the full criteria on GOV.UK.

You must provide proof of this to automatically apply. 

Even if you don’t automatically qualify you might still be able to get a Blue Badge. Some examples of when you could be eligible are: 

  • You either can’t walk, or you find walking considerably difficult
  • You have a severe or permanent disability that greatly affects your mobility
  • You have a severe disability.
  • You can find more examples on GOV.UK

The new extension applies in the following circumstances:

  • You can’t take a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to your health or safety. This applies to you or any other person, for example a young child with autism.
  • You can’t take a journey without it causing considerable psychological distress.
  • You have great difficulty walking, both the act of walking and the experience of it.
  • You can use the badge whether you’re a driver or a passenger with a disability.

Find out more information on the extension criteria on GOV.UK.

 

How have the blue badge rules changed?

The Blue Badge scheme exists to help people with limited mobility to travel. The spaces are often closer to the destination and give people more room.

In 2019, Blue Badges became available to people with 'hidden disabilities'. These are disabilities that are less visible, like dementia, anxiety disorders or for those with reduced mobility.

Access to these spaces help people with hidden disabilities to work, shop, or socialise. This might offer a lifeline to those who find travel difficult.

The blue badge parking scheme also aims to combat loneliness by helping people stay connected with family and friends. 

 

How do I apply for a blue badge?

You can either apply or reapply for a blue badge through GOV.UK. Here you can apply for yourself, someone else, or on behalf of an organisation.

You’ll need a couple of things to apply: 

  • Proof of identity, for example a passport or driving licence
  • Proof of address, this could be a utility bill or bank statement from less than 12 months ago
  • Proof of any benefits
  • Your national insurance number.

If you’re reapplying, you’ll need the details of your current blue badge. 

Once submitted, your application will be sent to your council. They’ll decide whether you’re eligible within 12 weeks. 

Your application will either be approved, rejected or you might have to provide further information.   

 

Is it harder to get a blue badge with a non-visible disability?

An investigation by the BBC Shared Data Unit revealed that eight out 10 local authorities had higher approval rates for people with physical disabilities.

For 10 of those local authorities, the difference between approvals of physical vs non-visible disabilities was more than 50 percentage points.

James Taylor from the disability charity Scope said: “This new data shows a shocking disparity between the allocations of blue badges to people with invisible and visible impairments.

"Councils need to understand the devastating impact their negative decision can have." 

 

What are the blue badge parking rules for holders?

If you have a badge you should be able to park in the following locations:

  • On single or double yellow lines,for up to three hours unless a ban on loading or unloading is active
  • Without a time limit in on-street disabled bays unless signs say otherwise
  • For free where there are parking meters, pay and display machines or spaces where a wheelchair symbol is displayed
  • In some European countries (a full list is on GOV.UK

For more information, visit GOV.UK

 

Can I park on double yellow lines with a disabled badge?

If you have a badge you should be able to park on double yellow lines for up to three hours. This is only possible if there is no ban on loading or unloading, to find out you’ll need to check with the local authority.

When you receive your badge, you will also be given a clock which needs to be displayed wherever you park. It shows parking inspectors how long you have been in a space for. 

 

Can I park in parent and child spaces if I’m a blue badge holder? 

You’ll find parent and child spaces in some car parks, such as in hospitals or supermarkets. They have extra room to help parents manoeuvre children and babies in and out of cars. 

If you have a badge, and there are no spaces available, you might want to park in a parent and child space because of the extra room available. 

As these spaces are found in private car parks, the rules differ over who can use one of these spaces. 

However, while it’s illegal to park in a blue badge space without a blue badge, it’s usually permitted for blue badge holders to park in a parent and child space if they need to. It’s always worth checking with the owner of the carpark to make sure you’re allowed to park in one of these spaces.

 

What are the disabled parking rules If I don’t have a blue badge?

If you’re parked in a blue badge parking space, you’ll need to display the badge at all times. You could be fined if you don’t display it. 

If you’re parking in a private car park, and you don’t have a badge, you could always ask for permission to park in a disabled spot. The owner of the car park might allow you to park in the space without the badge. It’ll be up to the discretion of the owner of the car park though as they t the rules on who can park in the blue badge spaces.

 

How do I report someone breaking the blue badge rules?

According to our research, £158,000 worth of fines were issued to people who misused blue badge spaces. 

Because of people misusing Blue Badge bays, two-thirds of blue badge holders have been forced to park elsewhere. Half of them struggled to get out of the car due to a lack of space*.

If you see someone misusing a council-owned blue badge bay, you can report it to your local authority. 

Make sure you include as much information as you can, like:

  • The car’s make and model
  • Its registration
  • How often you see the car in the space
  • A photograph of the car in the space.

Some councils will have a dedicated form, others may have an email address. To find your local council’s information visit GOV.UK.

Supermarkets are slightly different as they’re privately owned. If you notice someone parking in a blue badge space who shouldn’t be, report it to the store manager or speak to customer service. 

 

Which regions have the most blue badge holders per parking bay?

Some areas of the country are clearly feeling the pinch more than others.

Yorkshire & the Humber comes up on top with 129 blue badge holders fighting for the same space.

The East Midlands is close behind with 122 blue badge holders per space.

On the other end, Scotland leads the way with only 12 blue badge holders sharing a disabled space.

London is second-best at only 20 blue badge holders per space.

Region Blue badge holders per parking space
East Midlands
122
East of England
93
London
20
North East
35
North West
63
Scotland
12
South East
33
South West
38
Wales
45
West Midlands
91
Yorkshire & the Humber
129
 

Does having a blue badge affect your car insurance? 

Having a disability shouldn’t lessen your chances of getting car insurance. In fact, the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act, insurance companies can’t charge you more just because you have a disability.

What could impact your insurance costs is if you’ve modified your car to accommodate your needs. These could include:

  • Modified hand controls instead of foot pedals
  • A steering ball for easier steering movements
  • Conversions to accommodate a wheelchair.

You’ll need to tell your insurance company if you make any modifications to your car.

It’s also worth letting them know if you plan on sharing driving responsibilities with a family member or a carer.

If they’re doing the bulk of the driving, they might have to be put down as the policy holder rather than a named driver.

If you find that your prices are higher because of how you’ve had to adapt your car, it’s worth shopping around for a better price. You may be able to find a better deal from a specialist insurer so they’re worth adding to your list when comparing prices. 

Compare car insurance quotes

 
 

Am I exempt from car tax because I have a disability? 

You could be exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) - also called car tax -  if you have a blue badge. You can claim the exemption when you tax your car.

To get the exemption:

  • The car has to be registered to the person with the disability
  • The car has to be used only for the needs of the person with the disability.

If you’re taxing a car for the first time, you can only claim the exemption at a Post Office.

For more information, visit GOV.UK

 

Do I need to pay for tolls if I am a blue badge holder? 

If you have a blue badge, you might not need to pay to cross certain toll roads. In most cases, you’ll need to apply to the concession before you cross, so it’s worth checking beforehand.

You can see the list of tolls at GOV.UK.

 

*Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 14 August and 18 August 2020.

**5% of UK drivers admit to parking in blue badge parking space, despite not being or travelling with a blue badge permit holder. There are 41,178,424 driving licence holders in the UK. 5% of 41,178,424 = 2,058,921 = 2 million drivers.