Blue Badge policy

1. Purpose of this document

1.2     The purpose of this document is to set out Reading Borough Councils Blue Badge policy following national changes to the Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Scheme and describe the local implementation of these arrangements. This document aligns Reading Borough Council policy with national guidelines published in August 2019.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-blue-badge-scheme-local-authority-guidance-england(link is external)

2. Overview 

2.1    The Blue Badge (Disabled Person’s Parking) Scheme was introduced in 1971under Section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (‘the 1970 Act’). 

2.2    The aim of the scheme is to help disabled people with severe mobility problems to access goods and services, by allowing them to park close to their destination. The scheme is open to eligible disabled people irrespective of whether they are travelling as a driver or passenger.

2.3    From 30 August 2019, the scheme was extended to include people with nonvisible (“hidden”) disabilities.

2.4    The Blue Badge scheme provides a range of parking concessions for people with severe mobility problems. The scheme operates throughout the UK and is recognised within the European Union.

2.5    The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for the legislation that sets out the framework for the Blue Badge scheme and issues non-statutory guidance in order to share good practice. 

2.6     The DfT cannot intervene in the case of individual applications or eligibility decisions.

2.7    Local Authorities are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the scheme. It is the responsibility of Reading Borough Council to ensure that badges are only issued to residents who satisfy one or more of the eligibility criteria set out in the legislation that governs the scheme. Under no circumstances should anyone who does not satisfy at least one of the criteria receive a badge.

3. Eligibility 

3.1    The Blue Badge Scheme has two types of eligibility criteria: ‘without further assessment’ (previously known as ‘Automatic’) and ‘subject to further assessment’ (previously known as ‘Discretionary’).

3.2    Without further assessment’ (previously known as ‘Automatic’)

In order to qualify for a Blue Badge automatically, an application must meet one or more of the following criteria, where the applicant is more than two years old: 

  • Receives the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (HRMCDLA).
  • Receives the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and has obtained 8 points or more under the “moving around” activity.
  • Receives the mobility component of PIP and has obtained 10 points specifically for Descriptor E under the “planning and following journeys” activity, on the grounds that they are unable to undertake any journey because it would cause them overwhelming psychological distress
  • Is registered blind (severely sight impaired).
  • Receives a War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement (WPMS).
  • Has been both awarded a lump sum benefit at tariffs 1-8 of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and certified as having a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.

3.3    Subject to further assessment’ (previously known as ‘Discretionary’) 

An applicant may qualify for a badge after further assessment where the     applicant is more than two years old and may be described as one or more of the following:

  • A person who drives a vehicle regularly, has severe disability of both arms and is unable to operate, or has considerable difficulty in operation, all or some types of parking meter; 
    or
  • A person who has been certified by an expert assessor as having an enduring and substantial disability and one of the following:
    • Are unable to walk or experience very considerable difficulty whilst walking, which may include very considerable psychological distress.
    • At risk of serious harm when walking; or pose, when walking, a risk of serious harm to any other person.

3.3    In all cases, entitlement depends on the applicant’s difficulty when walking as part of a journey, and considerations such as difficulty in carrying parcels, opening car doors and width of parking spaces are not considered.

3.4    Applicants will need to demonstrate that their ability to walk is affected to the extent that they would be unable to access goods and services unless allowed to park close to shops, public buildings and other facilities.

3.5    The disability experienced by the applicant must endure for at least three years and therefore excludes temporary limitations of mobility, such as a broken leg.

3.6    In addition, children under the age of three may be eligible for a badge if they fall within one or both of the following descriptions:

  • A child who, on account of a condition, must always be accompanied by bulky medical equipment which cannot be carried around with the child without great difficulty.
  • A child who, on account of a condition, must always be kept near a motor vehicle so that, if necessary, treatment for that condition can be given in the vehicle or the child can be taken quickly in the vehicle to a place where such treatment can be given.

3.7    Non-visible (hidden) disability

The blue badge criteria changed on 30 August 2019 and was extended to include people who have a non-visible disability and who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person.
  • cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress.
  • have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking).

4. Further assessment

4.1    Applicants who may be eligible under further assessment criteria will have a desktop assessment by an Expert Assessor. Reading Borough Council Expert Assessors are Occupational Therapists with training and experience of the Blue Badge assessment process and legislation in line with DfT guidance. 

4.2    If a decision cannot be made at desktop the applicant can be invited for a mobility assessment or under hidden disabilities guidance asked to provide further information. Applicants may be asked to arrange for a medical professional known to them to complete and submit the Expert Assessor form before a final decision can be made. https://intranet.reading.gov.uk/manual/blue-badge-policy

4.3    Face to face mobility assessments are carried out by Expert Assessors using assessment criteria set out by the DfT Before face to face mobility assessments are considered the Expert Assessor will consider virtual assessments, information platforms and resources, and only when there is insufficient evidence to inform their decision will request a face to face assessment. During periods of Covid restrictions DfT guidelines must be followed with regards to face to face assessments. 

4.4    Applicants will receive detailed letters explaining decisions both at desktop and following Mobility Assessments in line with DfT guidelines.

4.5    The full description of the changes to criteria can be seen on the Department for Transport website under Running a Blue Badge parking scheme 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-blue-badge-scheme-local-authority-guidance-england(link is external)

4.6    It is the responsibility of the Council to interpret and apply the above criteria fairly.

4.7    Under no circumstances must a badge be issued to an applicant who does not meet one of the eligibility criteria set out in the legislation which governs the scheme. Badges must never be issued to people solely based on their age.

4.8     Letters can be provided in different formats as required to ensure accessibility requirements are adhered to.  

5. Organisational Blue Badges

5.1    An organisational badge may be issued to an organisation for use in a motor vehicle or vehicles when the vehicle or vehicles are to be used to carry disabled people who would themselves be eligible for a badge as specified in Section 4(2) of the Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) Regulations 2000 (“the 2000 Regulations”).

5.2    An ‘organisation’ is defined in the 2000 Regulations as meaning an organisation concerned with the care of disabled persons to which a disabled person’s badge may be issued in accordance with section 21(4) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

5.3    Reading Borough Council will check whether the organisation in question: 

  • Cares for and transports disabled people who would themselves meet one or more of the eligibility criteria for an individual Blue Badge and
  • Has a clear need for an organisational badge rather than using the individual Blue Badges of people it is transporting.

5.4    Reading Borough Council considers that taxi or private hire operators would not be eligible for an organisational Blue Badge as they are not usually responsible for the care of disabled people who would meet one or more of the eligibility criteria for a badge. Such operators are, of course, able to use an individual’s Blue Badge when carrying that person as a passenger.

5.5    This same criterion applies to vehicles owned by the council which are used to carry out the functions of a taxi or private hire operator. Applications for badges from organisations caring for disabled people will be examined to ensure that they are genuine and necessary. It is for local authorities to make this judgement, based on their local knowledge of the organisation concerned. Common examples of organisations that may be eligible include residential care homes, hospices or local authority social services departments and community transport operators that transport groups of people who would meet the eligibility criteria for an individual Blue Badge.

5.6    In order to help determine eligibility of applications, Reading Borough Council will ask the applicant organisations:

  • About the number of qualifying disabled people being cared for.
  • About the type of vehicle(s) being used to carry them, whether it is adapted and how.
  • Why the organisation feels they need an organisational badge rather than using individual Blue Badges of people in their care.
  • How often the badge is likely to be used and for what purpose.

5.7    Organisations must care for a minimum of six eligible people in order to be considered for an organisational badge.

5.8    Organisations must have a contract in place to care for their eligible disabled customer for a period of at least three years in order to be considered for an organisational badge.

5.9    All employees of the organisation who will be using the badge will be reminded that they must only use the badge for the purposes of transporting disabled people who meet one or more of the eligibility criteria for a badge. These employees will be reminded that if they use the badge to take advantage of the concessions when there are no passengers in the vehicle who are themselves eligible for a badge, they could face a fine of up to £1,000.

5.10    The number of badges given to any organisation will be considered on an individual basis and will be dependent on the number of people cared for.

6     Application Methods

6.1    The DfT provides the national online application facility through GOV.UK.
https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge(link is external)

6.2    Reading Borough Councils website features guidance notes to help with the online application process. This can be accessed at: 
https://www.reading.gov.uk/bluebadge

6.3    For applicants who cannot reasonably be expected to apply online, paper applications can be accepted in exceptional circumstances. Reading Borough Councils paper application form is based on the DfT’s model application form. 

6.4    Applicants are asked to provide detailed information about their disability and mobility difficulties at the initial application stage. Applicants must answer all questions as fully as possible in order to aid the council’s decision-making process.

7     Fees 

7.1    Reading Borough Council charges an administration fee of £10 for the issue of Blue Badges. This includes all applications, regardless of whether the applicant has held a Blue Badge previously. Only successful applicants will be asked to pay the badge issue fee.

7.2    Replacement Badges are also charged an administration fee of £10. This includes lost, stolen or damaged Blue Badges.

7.3    New and replacement palliative badges are issued without charge.

7.4    All replacement badges will be re-issued with the same expiry date of the stolen, lost or damaged badge.

8     Evidence and Photographs

8.1    Applicants must provide any supporting documents required in order for their application to be processed (i.e. to prove identity, residency and eligibility when applying under ‘without further assessment’ criteria). Applicants should also provide any supporting documents to help support their application when applying under ‘subject to further assessment’ (e.g. letters and reports from medical specialists). 

8.2    Customers are advised not to submit original documentation. Reading Borough Council cannot guarantee that original documentation will be returned to the applicant.

8.3     An applicant’s residency status will be verified using a document such as:

  • Driving licence
  • Council tax bill
  • Bank statement
  • Benefit award letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • A letter from a school confirming that a child attends there, if under the age of 16

An applicant’s identity will be verified using one of the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Valid Photo card Driving Licence
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage/divorce certificate
  • Civic partnership/ dissolution certificate

8.4    Blue Badges include a digitally scanned, passport-style photograph.

8.5    Applicants can upload a digital photograph onto the online application form. People who are unable to access photographs can provide a suitable photograph taken by other means which meets the passport-style standard.

8.6    The only circumstance in which a photograph of the badge holder does not have to be displayed in the badge is in the case of an eligible disabled person with a terminal illness if Reading Borough Council is satisfied that life expectancy of that person is less than six months.

9     Procedures

9.1    All applications are treated as ‘new’ applications and are assessed on the same basis regardless of whether the applicant has previously held a Blue Badge unless previously agreed by Expert Assessor as permanent.

9.2    All Blue Badges are processed through Customer Services:

  • Application received
  • Checked to ensure all documentation is valid and correct 
  • Non automatic applications scanned and sent to Expert Assessor for desktop assessment 
  • If approved and a new application a payment request is made to the applicant 
  • If approved the requested badge to be printed via Blue Badge Digital Service  

9.3    All Blue Badges are printed and posted through DfT’s Blue Badge Digital Service. 

9.4    An application is only considered to be completed once all required supporting documentation, a suitable photograph and an application form has been received by Reading Borough Council.

9.5    The normal period of issue for a Blue Badge is three years, unless entitlement is linked to an automatic qualifying benefit; in which case it will be issued for a period corresponding to the remaining term of this award (up to a maximum of three years). Badges issued to children under the age of three are issued until the child’s third birthday. 

9.6    Reading Borough Council has a fast-track application process in place for people who have a terminal illness that seriously limits their mobility. 

9.7    Reading Borough Council may make use of information from an applicant’s GP, Connected Care, Mosaic or from other professionals regarding an applicant’s condition(s) and treatment(s) as evidence to support the eligibility decision making process.

9.8    Individuals must not be in receipt of more than one valid Blue Badge at any time. 

9.9    Reading Borough Council reserves the right to refuse, withdraw or re-issue a Blue Badge where abuse or misuse is reasonably suspected.

10     Timescales

10.1    The council aims to process Blue Badge applications within 4 to 6 weeks of a completed application and all evidence being received.

10.2    If further information or evidence is requested from the applicant and no response is received from the applicant within 4 weeks, the application will be deemed cancelled and will not be processed any further.

10.3    If further information is required from an Expert Assessor or a mobility assessment is required, the timescale is extended to 8 weeks.

10.4    Applicants moving to Reading should continue to use their existing badge until it expires and reapply to Reading Borough Council.

11     Parking

11.1    As long as the badge is physically included in the journey, a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge is allowed to park:

  • In on-street disabled parking bays (showing a blue wheelchair symbol). 
  • On single or double yellow lines for up to three hours. The blue parking clock must show the quarter hour period in the holder arrived and must be displayed alongside the Blue Badge. The Holder must leave a gap of at least one hour before they return to park in the same part of the road. The Holder must not park in places where a ban on loading or unloading is in force, as indicated by kerb markings.
  • Free of charge on the public highway at parking meters or pay-and-display bays, unless signs say otherwise
  • In disabled spaces in off-street car parks (supermarket, hospital or local authority car parks). The Holder may have to pay for their parking. 
  • In on-street parking spaces that state a parking time limit – the time limit may not apply to blue badge holders. The Holder must check with signs before parking – if there is a time limit, the Holder must set their blue parking clock to the quarter hour in which they arrived.

11.2    Blue Badge holders are not permitted to park in bays for specified users such as permit holders bays, unless they also have a resident’s permit.

12     Returning Badges

12.1    Badges that are no longer required must be returned to: Reading Civic Centre, 19 Bridge Street, Reading, RG12LU

12.2    If badges for which a replacement has been provided are subsequently found or recovered, the original badge must be returned to Reading Borough Council so that it can be destroyed.

12.3    Damaged badges must also be returned to Reading Borough Council to be officially destroyed.

12.4    When a Blue Badge holder dies, the badge must be immediately returned to Reading Borough Council as per regulation 9(1) of the 2000 Regulations.

13     Unsuccessful Applications

13.1    Under regulation 8 of the 2000 Regulations (as amended by SI 2011/2675), Reading Borough Council will refuse to issue a Blue Badge if:

  • The applicant holds or has held a badge and misuse has led to a conviction for an offence defined in regulations 2(3) and 2(4).
  • The applicant fails to provide the local authority with adequate evidence of their eligibility, either as an individual or as an eligible organisation.
  • The applicant fails to pay the fee chargeable for the issue of a badge.
  • Reading Borough Council has reasonable grounds for believing that the applicant (i) is not the person they are claiming to be, or (ii) would permit another person to whom the badge was not issued to use the badge.
  • The applicant fails to provide evidence of residency.

13.2    Reading Borough Council will let the applicant know in writing why their application was refused. 

14     Requesting a Review of the Decision

14.1    Applicants have the right to request a review of the decision not to issue them with a badge, within 28 days of the date of the decision letter. All requests will normally be dealt with within 28 days of receipt. The request must be made in writing to the Blue Badge Team and must detail:

  • Why the applicant feels that the decision is wrong and provide further relevant evidence to support a review of decision.

14.2    The Review of Decision will be made by the Lead Occupational Therapist who may request one of the following be undertaken as part of the review:

  • Face to face mobility assessment 
  • Request additional evidence from Expert Assessors known to the applicant 
  • Request that the applicant request further evidence from an Expert Assessor known to the applicant 
  • Contact applicant to discuss application.

14.3    The Review of Decision will require DfT eligibility criteria to be applied against new evidence provided.

14.4    As part of the Review of Decision all paperwork submitted and assessments undertaken as part of the process will be reviewed and taken into consideration.

14.5    If, following a request for review, the applicant’s application for a blue badge remains unsuccessful this decision will be final. The applicant will be written to and a detailed explanation given for the decision.

14.6    No further application can be made for a period of three months following the final decision, unless the individual’s mobility changes significantly during that time period.

15     Complaints 

15.1    If an applicant has a complaint regarding the administration, processes or customer service of the Blue Badge Team this is separate to the Review of Decision. Applicants can submit a complaint, details of which can be found online at https://www.reading.gov.uk/complaints

15.2    In addition to the council’s own procedure, if the customer feels that they have suffered an injustice because of maladministration, the Local Government Ombudsman may investigate. Details of which can be found on line at http://www.lgo.org.uk/(link is external)

16     Fraud 

16.1     Blue Badge fraud usually takes two forms. This is either the misuse of valid badges by friends and family members not permitted to use the badge, or by drivers using lost, stolen or counterfeit badges. In all instances, the illegal use of Blue Badges constitutes a criminal offence. Reading Borough Council are determined to stamp out Blue Badge fraud and will aim to prosecute abusers. A successful prosecution will result in a criminal record and a hefty fine (which could be over £1000).

16.2     Suspected Blue Badge fraud must be reported to the Council and will be treated with confidence. Fraud can be reported in one of the following ways. 

References

Blue Badge Scheme Local Government Authority Guidance June 2019