Blue Badge worries in Nottinghamshire

From the Newark Advertiser, February 1 – story by Caroline Boyd

Up to 14,000 disabled people in Nottinghamshire who have a blue parking badge could lose it under changes to the scheme.

The scheme was introduced in 1971 to provide parking close to essential amenities and services for people with severe mobility problems.

Under new regulations, some people who have been automatically eligible will receive a badge only if they can provide Nottinghamshire County Council with evidence of mobility problems.

The council, which issues badges under government guidelines, is expected to be affected by the changes more than other councils.

This is because in March, 1997 the social services committee made it easier to get a blue badge automatically, in a bid to reduce the number of assessments requested from GPs, which at the time cost 117.20 for each report.

The criteria included people who used a wheelchair or walking aid, other than one walking stick, supplied by the NHS.

The national ratio of people with blue badges is about one in 20. In Nottinghamshire this would mean having 33,000 badges in circulation but there are currently about 47,000 blue badges in the county.

Those who are most likely to be affected are those who have been issued with a badge under the extended criteria but who do not have very considerable difficulty with walking.

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INITIAL RESPONSE FROM THE ME ASSOCIATION

One problem with the Blue Badge scheme is that while there is a list of clearly defined criteria that automatically passport people to a Blue Badge (eg being in receipt of a high rate mobility component of DLA) there is a second route – the ”considerable difficulty in walking because of a permanent and substantial disability’ – that allows local authorities a degree of flexibility as to how individual applicantions are assessed.

 
Nottinghamshire are clearly tightening up on their assessment procedures – which they are perfectly entitled to do – but there may be a legal issue here as to whether they can change an entitlement to a badge that has already been granted. Perhaps this is something that that local disability law service could look at?
 
One possible way forward might be for existing badge holders who are likely to be affected by the proposal to get together and try to persuade sufficient local councillors to vote against the proposal and instead tighten up their assessment procedures for new applications.  Otherwise, the council might well be faced with a bureaucratic nightmare of large numbers of applications and costly GP assessments from people who have their current badges taken away..


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