The Department for Transport has announced that it is extending the Blue Badge scheme so that more people with ‘invisible’ health problems, such as autism and mental health problems, can now apply.
The Blue Badge scheme offers accessible parking for people who find travel difficult, allowing them to park closer to their destination than other drivers. Until now, it was only physically disabled people who were eligible for Blue Badges because of the barriers they face when it comes to taking public transport or walking longer distances. The Government has now recognised that people with mental health problems often struggle with these issues too.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said: “We’re really pleased that more people with mental health problems should now be able to access Blue Badges. This is an important step in the right direction – showing greater recognition of the many barriers faced by some people with mental health problems when it comes to leaving the house and making journeys. This decision comes less than a year after the legal case which found that many people with mental health problems were losing out on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit due to a discriminatory assessment process.
“Today’s announcement should mean that going forward, many more people with mental health problems will be able to more easily do the things lots of us take for granted – whether that’s buying groceries, going to doctor appointments or maintaining relationships with friends and family who provide vital social support.”
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 today 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 new criteria will extend eligibility to people who:
- cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism);
- cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress; or
- have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking).
The changes follow an eight-week consultation and are part of the Government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health conditions.
Although people with non-physical disabilities are not excluded from receiving a Blue Badge, the current rules are open to interpretation. The new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England.