What we’re saying about Blue Badge refusals and ME/CFS | 14 June 2016

One of the problems relating to Blue Badge applications and ME/CFS involves the official government guidance that singles out M.E. as a condition that does not automatically qualify people for a Blue Badge:

Whilst medical conditions such as asthma, Crohn’s disease/incontinent conditions, autism, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) and other mental/cognitive/intellectual disabilities are not in themselves a qualification for a badge, people with these conditions may be eligible for a badge if they are unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty in walking.

Eligibility is not determined by the presence or absence of any particular diagnosis or condition.

Provided that an applicant has a permanent and substantial disability, a local authority’s eligibility decision should be based on whether the applicant’s difficulty in walking meets the criterion in the regulations. Each application should be considered on its merits – not on a “one size fits all” basis. The final decision about whether an applicant meets the criterion is for the issuing authority to make.

The Department for Transport has no power to intervene in eligibility decisions in individual cases.

Unfortunately, this official guidance is sometimes misinterpreted by local authority administrative staff to mean that people with ME/CFS cannot qualify for a Blue Badge.

I have spoken to the Countess of Mar about this problem – who has kindly asked a parliamentary question.


THIS IS THE QUESTION AND THE GOVERNMENT REPLY


Question, tabled on 9 June 2016

The Countess of Mar:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to amend Section 4:4 of The Blue Badge Scheme Local Authority Guidance (England) to exclude the first sentence that specifies certain medical conditions in order to ensure that eligibility is based on disability or ill health regardless of diagnosis.

Answer, received on 14 June 2016.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Government has no current plans to amend the non-statutory guidance to local authorities about the Blue Badge scheme. As the guidance makes clear “Each application should be considered on its merits – not on a “one size fits all” basis. The final decision about whether an applicant meets the criterion is for the issuing authority to make.”


MEA INFORMATION ON HE BLUE BADGE SCHEME


We have an MEA information leaflet that covers all aspects of Blue Badge applications as they relate to ME/CFS:

www.meassociation.org.uk/shop/benefits-leaflets/blue-badge-scheme/

We also have an MEA ‘To Whom It May Concern’ letter signed by myself that can be used to support a Blue Badge application or renewal:

www.meassociation.org.uk/shop/to-whom-letters/blue-badge-applications-and-wheelchair-use/

Applicants for Blue Badges may also find it helpful to provide some research evidence relating to Prognosis and Permanency in relation to ME/CFS to back up the application. We have another MEA information leaflet that could be used for this purpose.

All of these leaflets can be ordered from the MEA on-line shop, or the 8-page Order Form in ME Essential magazine

We also work with the Countess of Mar on issues relating to DWP benefits and disability aids for people with ME/CFS. This is a previous parliamentary question that was tabled in relation to Blue Badges and ME/CFS:

www.meassociation.org.uk/2012/05/parliamentary-question-blue-badge-eligibility-15-may-2012/

A number of MEA members have successfully challenged Blue Badge refusals using the above information

We are also aware that people with ME/CFS are facing increasing difficulty when it comes to obtaining a Blue Badge or renewing an existing Blue Badge.

Whilst it is CORRECT to say that ME/CFS is not an illness that automatically qualifies a person for a Blue Badge, it is INCORRECT to state, as some local council officials are now doing, that people with ME/CFS are not eligible for a Blue Badge

People with ME/CFS can be eligible for a Blue Badge – provided their mobility and walking problems satisfy the eligibility criteria that have been produced in relation to this scheme.


Results of a recent (April 2016) MEA website poll on Blue Badge success rate in ME/CFS


What happened if you recently applied for, or tried to renew, a Blue Badge (for disabled parking)?

Approved (25%, 52 Votes)
Approved following appeal/reconsideration (3%, 6 Votes)
Refused on first application (4%, 9 Votes)
Refused on renewal (3%, 6 Votes)
Awaiting decision (4%, 9 Votes)
Never applied for one (39%, 80 Votes)
Automatic acceptance following DLA or PIP mobility award (22%, 43 Votes)
Total Voters: 205

Dr Charles Shepherd
Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association

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