Law changes should be considered to fix “inconsistent” blue badge scheme

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Communities Committee
Blue Badge Scheme: Eligibility & Implementation (pdf)
Published: 8th July 2019

“Blue badges provide a lifeline for a range of people in our society. Without them, many would struggle to access essential services such as attending medical appointments. Difficulty in visiting shops and using leisure facilities diminishes their ability to lead independent lives and they could become more isolated and confined to their own homes….Differing arrangements across the 22 councils have led to inconsistencies in implementation across Wales.”
– Committee Chair, John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East)

1. Eligibility criteria for blue badges need to be reviewed

At the moment, there are two different eligibility categories for blue badges:

  • Eligible without further assessment – including people with severe sight problems, injured veterans and those receiving the higher rate of disability living allowance.
  • Subject to further assessment – including people with limited mobility, severe cognitive impairments or who are terminally ill in a manner which restricts mobility.

Certain conditions also make a person eligible for a temporary blue badge including complex injuries, strokes, people undergoing treatment for cancer or people on orthopaedic waiting lists.

Welfare reforms relating to personal independence payments (PIP) have affected people’s automatic entitlement to a blue badge and has lead to delays. There were several calls for benefit claims to be discretionary when assessing eligibility as many people who’ve dropped a rate for disability benefits still live with conditions that previously made them eligible for a blue badge.

The Committee also recommended that a fast track application process used for those with terminal illnesses should become mandatory.

2. Guidance for carers applying on someone else’s behalf should be made clear

The Alzheimer’s Society argued that carers of people with a blue badge qualifying condition should be able to use a blue badge themselves, but the Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) was uneasy about the idea, saying that extending eligibility to carers would result in an additional 370,000 badges being issued:

Carmarthenshire Council suggested the Welsh Government clarifies whether carers can use blue badges in relation to their caring responsibilities when the badge-holder isn’t present in a vehicle. The Committee included this as a recommendation, as well as suggesting a concessionary parking scheme for carers separate from blue badges.

3. A range of professionals should be involved in blue badge assessments

In 2017, the Welsh Government announced that GPs would no longer have a formal role in blue badge assessments, as their advice is often based on clinical evidence and a “medical view of disability”, not how a mobility issue might affect the applicant in day-to-day life (“social view of disability”). Some councils, like Carmarthenshire, use occupational therapists to assess applications, while a number of organisations supported social workers, teachers and other professionals being involved in the process.

4. An appeals process for failed blue badge applications should be introduced

There’s currently no legal requirement on councils to put in place an appeals process for failed blue badge applications – something which concerned many witnesses.

A number of witnesses argued that a proper appeals process would give all councils a good idea of what the benchmark for a blue badge should be. Many witnesses said the blue badge system was generally inconsistent across Wales and there were, effectively, twenty-two different processes.

Some councils have a “reconsideration” process rather than a formal appeals process where, for example, an applicant can submit additional medical information.

The introduction of any appeals process would require amendments to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, but it would need to be “drafted carefully” to avoid straying into non-devolved areas.

The Committee also recommended the Act be amended to enable legally-binding guidance on the blue badge system to be issued by the Welsh Government to councils, as well as recommending the Welsh Government comes up with a way to collect official data on misuse of blue badges.

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