Hartlepool's MP welcomes blue badge changes
The MP for Hartlepool has welcomed the proposed changes to the blue badge parking scheme.
Mike Hill said the move to include hidden disabilites in the scheme is a step forward.
The Department for Transport has announced important changes to the Blue Badge disabled parking scheme following a consultation launched at the beginning of the year.
It will now be extended to people with non-physical disabilities, therefore taking into account mental health conditions for the first time.
Mr Hill said: “I welcome the Government’s plans to amend the eligibility criteria for accessing the blue badge scheme as I too have long believed that it should not discriminate between physical and non-physical disabilities.
“From the responses provided during the consultation period it became clear that some people with hidden disabilities were finding it difficult to obtain badges, even though their condition caused them very significant difficulties when undertaking a journey.
“Of course there are likely to difficulties with these changes, particularly around perceptions and how people are to likely to be assessed, and I would like to see clarity on provision for younger people and dependents, but it is a significant step forward in tackling discrimination against those with disabilities you cannot see, which despite all the scheme’s current faults, has to be a good thing.”
The Department of Transport has said from next year, those with less immediately obvious illnesses, such as autism and mental health conditions, will have the same right to a badge allowing them to park closer to their destinations as those with physical disabilities.
It said that while the current rules covering the badge scheme in England do not specifically exclude those with non-physical disabilities, they “are open to interpretation” by local authorities and required greater clarity.
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.
“The changes we have announced will ensure that this scheme is extended equally to people with hidden disabilities so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.”
The badge scheme was launched in 1970, and currently around 2.4 million disabled people in England have one.
It enables them to park free of charge in pay and display bays and for up to three hours on yellow lines.
Around three out of four blue badge holders say they would go out less often if they did not have one.
The Blue Badge scheme in Scotland was permanently extended in December to cover carers and relatives of people with conditions such as dementia, autism and Down’s Syndrome.