The Countess of Mar, who chairs the ‘Forward ME' Group of national charity representatives, tabled a question that asked the Government why, in the guidance related to Blue Badge eligibility, conditions including myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) are expressly identified as not being “in themselves a qualification for a badge”; and to what other medical conditions this guidance relates.
In a written answer supplied on 15 May 2012, Lord Attlee (who holds a number of Lords' speaking briefs for Government departments including the Department for Transport) replied:
Eligibility for a Blue Badge is set out in the governing regulations. These are the Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) 2000, as amended. Since the 1980s, the regulations allow people to apply to local authorities for a badge through two main routes: “without further assessment” and “with further assessment”. Under the “with further assessment” category, a person may be eligible for a badge if they have a permanent and substantial disability which means they are unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty walking.
It is for the relevant local authority to make decisions on whether or not a person is eligible for a badge. To help ensure consistency, the Department for Transport issues non-statutory guidance to local authorities on the factors that should be taken into account when they are making an assessment. As part of major reforms to the scheme, the department published updated guidance in June 2011 and again in February 2012.
The guidance is intended to explain that eligibility for a badge under the “with further assessment” criteria is not condition specific. Local authorities should take into account the effect of a person's condition on their ability to walk. The guidance gives examples of conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and mental and cognitive impairments like autism and dementia. In these cases, people might be eligible for a badge if their condition means they are unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty walking. They might, however, not be eligible if their ability to walk is unaffected.
As part of wide-ranging reforms, the Government considered extending eligibility for a Blue Badge. They announced on February 2011 that they had no plans to extend eligibility to other groups of disabled people. With over 2.5 million badges already on issue, the Government decided that it was important to ensure the Blue Badge scheme remains sustainable in the long term and that it protected the concession for those who need it the most, that is, those who are unable to walk or have considerable difficulty walking.