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21 Jul 2021
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

The Blue Badge scheme: what you need to know

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Blue badge parking space

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.

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

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 these 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.

 

Which regions have the most Blue Badge holders per bay?

Some areas 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.

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

 

How has the Blue Badge scheme changed?

The Blue Badge scheme exists to help people with limited mobility to travel. The spaces are often closer to the destination and have 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 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 scheme also aims to combat loneliness by helping people stay connected with family and friends. 

 

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.

And 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."

 

Where can I park if I have a Blue Badge?

You can use different types of parking spaces if you have a Blue Badge. For example, you can park without a time limit in on-street disabled bays unless signs say otherwise. 

If you have a blue badge, you shouldn’t be charged for using on-street parking metres or pay and display machines either.  

You might be able to park on yellow lines for up to three hours unless a ban on loading or unloading is active. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

 

Am I eligible for a Blue Badge?

You can check if you’re eligible for a blue badge 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.

You can find the full criteria on GOV.UK.

You must provide proof of the above 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 to 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.  

 

How do I report Blue Badge misuse?

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.

 

Car insurance for Blue Badge holders

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.

Compare car insurance quotes

 

Are Blue Badge holders exempt from paying car tax?

You could be exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) - also called car tax -  if you have 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.

 

Toll concessions for Blue Badge holders

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 a 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.

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