July 18, 2019 at 10:05 AM

What Is The Blue Badge Scheme?

The Blue Badge scheme is a national initiative created by the UK government to allow disabled people with severe mobility problems to park close to their destination. This helps provide easier access to goods, services and facilities.

Blue Badge holders travelling either as a driver or passenger are entitled to a range of on-street parking concessions. These include being able to park without a time limit or charge in places such as on-street disabled bays, on-street parking meters and pay-and-display machines. Off-street car parks, including supermarkets, hospitals or those provided by the local authority are governed by separate rules.

While the Blue Badge scheme is in operation throughout the UK, there are local differences in the scheme's operation in certain London boroughs and other local authorities in large towns and cities.

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Who Can Get A Blue Badge?

There is a range of different criteria that you can meet to be eligible for the Blue Badge scheme. You might qualify automatically, or you may need to apply if you have considerable difficulty walking or severe disabilities in both your arms. Parents of children under three years old that need to be close to a vehicle because of a health condition can also apply.

AUTOMATIC ELIGIBILITY

You're automatically eligible for a Blue Badge if you're over two years old and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Registered blind
  • Receive the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for being unable to walk further than 50 metres (a score of 8 points of more under the 'moving around' activity of the mobility component)
  • Receive a War Pensioner's Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
  • Have received a lump sum benefit within tariff levels 1-8 of the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation) Scheme and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking

As long as you can supply the right documentation to support your application, as well as proof of your identity and proof that you're a resident in the local authority in which you're applying, you will automatically qualify for a Blue Badge.

Even if you're not automatically eligible for a Blue Badge, it's still worth applying for one - you just need to fill in an extra part of the application to show why you need one.

CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY WALKING

If you have a substantial disability which causes inability to walk or considerable difficulty walking, you may be eligible for a Blue Badge. If you apply under this criterion, you need to demonstrate that:

  • you're unable to walk, or
  • you're unable to walk very far without experiencing considerable difficulty - for example, excessive pain or a deterioration of health caused by the effort needed to walk

Eligibility is not determined on the basis of a particular diagnosis or condition. Instead, it's the effect of the disability on your ability to walk that's important.

When filling in the application form, you should describe your condition in as much detail as you can and how it affects your ability to walk. Try to estimate how far you can walk and how long it takes you to walk this distance. You could also include how you walk - for example, do you shuffle or take small steps.

Your local authority is responsible for determining your eligibility for a Blue Badge. They may ask you to undergo a mobility assessment with a medical professional (e.g. physiotherapist or occupational therapist).

SEVERE DISABILITY IN YOUR ARMS

If you have a severe disability in your arms, you could be eligible for a Blue Badge, but you have to meet all of the following criteria:

  • You drive a vehicle regularly
  • You have a severe disability in both arms
  • You're unable to operate, or have considerable difficulty operating, all or some types of on-street parking equipment

Only drivers with the most severe disabilities in both their arms will be eligible under this criterion. On the application form you need to explain why you have difficulty using parking machines or meters.

This criteria doesn't apply to people who solely travel as a passenger or have difficulty carrying packages. You also need to explain why you need to drive a car regualarly - for example, taking your children to school or for your job.

SPECIAL RULES FOR CHILDREN UNDER 3

Parents with a child under three years old can apply for a Blue Badge for their child if they have a specific medical condition that means they:

  • must always be accompanied by bulky medical equipment that can't be easily carried around (e.g. ventilators, feed pumps or suction machines), and/or
  • need to be near a vehicle at all times because of highly unstable medical conditions (e.g. tracheostomies or severe epilepsy) so they can be treated in the vehicle or driven to a hospital, if necessary

The child will be eligible for a Blue Badge if the equipment is always needed and can't be carried without great difficulty. The local authority may ask a medical professional involved in your child's care to provide additional information.

Getting A Blue Badge With A Hidden Disability

After an 8-week consultation - which received more than 6,000 responses from across the country - the guidance for issuing a Blue Badge has been updated to include those with hidden disabilities such as autism, dementia or anxiety disorders.

The new guidance was rolled out on June 15th 2019 and came into effect from August 30th 2019. The eligibility criteria has been extended to now include people who can't walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

You may now be eligible for a blue badge if one of more of the following applies:

  • You are constantly a significant risk to yourself 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

ELIGIBLE WITHOUT FURTHER ASSESSMENT

If someone receives the mobility component of PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and has obtained 10 points specifically for Descriptor E under the "planning and following journeys" activity, on the grounds that they are unable to undertake any journey because it would cause them overwhelming psychological distress, then they will automatically qualify for a Blue Badge.

ELIGIBLE SUBJECT TO FURTHER ASSESSMENT

A Blue Badge may be issued to someone after further assessment by an expert assessor who certifies that they have an enduring and substantial disability which causes them, during the course of a journey to:

  • Experience very considerable difficulty whilst walking, which may include very considerable psychological distress; or
  • Be at risk of serious harm when walking; or pose, when walking, a risk of serious harm to any other person

How To Apply For A Blue Badge

The Blue Badge scheme is administered by local authorities throughout the UK, not the Department for Transport (DfT). You can apply for a Blue Badge online using the government website or by contacting your local authority for a copy of their application form.

You can apply for a Blue Badge for yourself or someone else, as long as you/they meet any of the above eligibility criteria. In England, a Blue Badge can cost up to £10, whereas in Scotland you can be charged up to £20; however, it's free in Wales. Information about the Blue Badge scheme in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Direct website.

To complete the application process you will need:

  • A recent digital photo showing your head and shoulders (like a standard passport photo)
  • Proof of identity (e.g. passport or driving licence)
  • Proof of address (less than 12 months old)
  • Proof of benefits (if applicable)
  • Your National Insurance number

Your application will be sent to your council who will make a decision within 12 weeks if you're not automatically eligible for a Blue Badge.

How To Renew A Blue Badge

A Blue Badge only lasts for three years so, once it expires, you will have to renew your badge. You should re-apply for a new badge from your local authority weeks before it runs out using the government website or by filling in a copy of their application form.

If you signed up for the renewal reminder service you should receive a letter to remind you. In addition, if you provided your mobile number or email address, you could be sent a text or email reminder.

When you renew a Blue Badge you will need:

  • A recent digital photo showing your head and shoulders (like a standard passport photo)
  • Proof of identity (e.g. passport or driving licence)
  • Proof of address (less than 12 months old)
  • Proof of benefits (if applicable)
  • Your National Insurance number
  • The details of your current Blue Badge

What Happens If My Blue Badge Application Is Refused?

If your Blue Badge application is refused you will receive a letter from your council explaining why you're not eligible for a Blue Badge. The letter will also tell you how you can ask for a review and what the time limit for this is.

You can ask the council to reconsider your application if you think that they didn't take all the facts and important information you provided into account. If your mobility problems become more serious you can also reapply.

Who Can Use The Blue Badge?

A Blue Badge is for the sole use and benefit of the Blue Badge holder. It can only be legally displayed when the holder is traveling in the vehicle as a driver or passenger, or if the person driving needs to park where the badge holder is being collected or dropped off.

The Blue Badge cannot:

  • be given to friends or family to allow them to park for free, even if they're visiting you
  • be used by able-bodied people to take advantage of the parking concessions while you sit in the car

It's a criminal offence to misuse a Blue Badge and you could be fined up to £1,000.

Blue Badge Parking Rules

As a Blue Badge holder, there are a number of parking concessions available to you; however, you must always check signs to see what the parking rules are for any given location.

PLACES YOU CAN ALWAYS PARK

Yellow Lines

Blue Badge holders are allowed to park on single and double yellow lines for up to three hours, unless there's a 'no loading' sign. Having said that, some councils have chosen to exempt Blue Badge holders from this restriction - check the government website before you travel to find out.

Your Blue Badge must be displayed with the clock showing the quarter hour period in which you arrived. In addition, you have to wait at least one hour after a previous parking session before you can park the same vehicle in the same road.

You're also not entitled to park on any yellow lines in off-street car parks.

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'On-Street' Parking Meters & Pay-and-Display Machines

As long as you display your Blue Badge, you can park for free and without a time limit in any on-street parking space that uses a parking meter or pay-and-display machine.

'On-Street' Disabled Parking Bays

On-street disabled parking bays will have a sign with the blue wheelchair symbol. You can park in these spaces for free and without a time limit, unless there is signage to say otherwise.

You need to display your Blue Badge (and the parking clock if the bay is time limited).

PLACES YOU NEED TO CHECK BEFORE PARKING

You should be aware of the local parking schemes and restrictions in force before you travel anywhere.

Off-Street Car Parks

Off-street car parks include places such as supermarkets, hospitals and local authority car parks. Usually, operators will provide parking spaces for disabled people; however, the car park owner is the one that decides whether Blue Badge holders can park for free.

Check the signage to confirm that you won't be charged for your parking session.

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Certain London Boroughs

The Blue Badge scheme has never fully applied to the following parts of central London:

These four boroughs offer their own individual parking concessions to disabled people who live or work in these areas due to specific traffic management concerns.

Other Places

Always check local signs or contact the parking operator in advance to check the parking arrangements:

  • Town centres where local schemes are in operation
  • On-street parking areas where all motorists can park for free but only for a limited time
  • Road systems at airports
  • Private roads
  • Red Routes

PLACES WHERE YOU CAN'T PARK

Despite providing additional powers to disabled motorists, the Blue Badge is not a license to park anywhere. You must still obey the rules of the road as laid out in the Highway Code.

Below is a list of places that you can't park even with a Blue Badge:

  • Parking spaces reserved for specific users (e.g. resident's bays or loading bays)
  • Pedestrian crossings, including areas marked by zig-zag lines
  • Clearways (no stopping)
  • A bus stop clearway during its hours of operation
  • An urban clearway within its hours of operation
  • School 'keep clear' markings during the hours shown on a yellow no-stopping plate
  • Bus, tram or cycle lanes (including cycle tracks)
  • Where there are double white lines in the centre of the road, even if one of the lines is broken
  • Suspended meter bays or when use of the meter is not allowed
  • Where temporary parking restrictions are in force

Blue Badge Holders & The Congestion Charge

As a Blue Badge holder you don't have to pay the central London congestion charge. In order to qualify for the 100% discount from the charge, you need to register your Blue Badge with Transport for London (TfL) and pay a one-off £10 registration fee.

You can register up to two vehicles that you normally use for travelling into central London - you don't need to own a vehicle or drive one to be eligible for this concession.

If you don't want to use the TfL website, you can phone them on 0845 900 1243 or get a registration form sent to you in the post by writing to: Congestion Charging, PO Box 4782, Worthing, BN11 9PS.

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Blue Badge Holders & Toll Concessions

You might not have to pay the full fare at some river crossings, bridges and tunnels if you're a Blue Badge holder. In most cases, you need to apply for the concession in advance. Find out more about the toll concessions you can get.


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