Everything changes from next month when the Department for Transport’s new scheme takes effect which means that anyone who doesn’t automatically qualify for a badge will have to undergo an independent mobility assessment.
This tighter measure will be carried out by medical professionals who have expertise in mobility and are not involved with the applicant. This would replace previous GP assessments.
And it’s likely to cost £10 to get the badge (a massive 400 per cent rise from the current £2).
Though it’s an optional rise within the new scheme we’ve already seen Telford and Rochdale (and several others in the North West) announce the £10 charge. That is sure to mean the ‘optional’ rise will become a standard rise across the board from most councils.
In its defence, Telford and Wrekin Council say the new system will cost nearly £60,000 a year to oversee and administer and part of the fee will offset that.
The new scheme also means (yet another) national database of users to help prevent fraudulent use.
So again we see a small minority of people abusing a system designed to help people with mobility problems and it leads to a huge overhaul which impacts everyone wanting a Blue Badge.
The idea that it’s some kind of perk to be able to park near shops and other amenities, stay for free in some pay and display car parks and for free on single and double yellow lines in most streets for up to three hours needs to be tackled. It isn’t a perk for the vast majority of Blue Badge holders – it’s a necessity.
Without it many disabled people would be housebound or reliant on friends and family to get out and about.
Indeed, Hampshire County Council is already asking for feedback on planned stricter measures to qualify for disabled parking badges. (The county has already publicised the growing black market for Blue Badges with someone being offered £1,000 for one).
Hampshire’s potential changes were put forward shortly after Rushmoor Borough Council announced its proposals to charge disabled people to park in council-owned car parks.
Tameside Council has also announced that from January disabled people cannot park for free in their car parks.
It’s a quick fix for council coffers up and down the country to stop disabled people parking for free. Again, this is the thin end of a very thick wedge.
So now we are faced with the likelihood that the future price of obtaining a Blue Badge will rise significantly (just like the cost of getting a passport did and tuition fees once people got used to the concept of paying) and, let’s be clear about this, the medical evaluation element will undoubtedly take greater precedence for ALL Blue Badge applications.
And because disabled people do not appear to have a voice in these changes, it doesn’t mean that any future changes should be implemented without a full public consultation.