Parking regulations can be tricky for any driver. A Blue Badge is designed to mitigate some of those issues for disabled people but you still need to know how to use it properly.
What are you entitled to as a Blue Badge holder?
If you are a disabled driver, having a Blue Badge can provide you with a range of benefits. One example is that it allows you to park closer to your destination, whether you’re a passenger or the driver, and is usually issued by your local council for a period of three years and costs £10. (If you have an allowance which ends before the three-year period ends, your Blue Badge will coincide with this.)
There are plenty of rights and responsibilities to be aware of if you are a Blue Badge holder.
How do you know if you qualify for a Blue Badge?
There are five automatic qualification criteria:
- You receive a higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
- You receive a War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement.
- You have been given a sum by the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces Compensation Scheme and have been registered as having a substantial and permanent disability.
- You get a Personal Independence Payment which shows an eligible descriptor of the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component.
- You are registered blind. NB: A disabled person must be over two years old to qualify for a Blue Badge.
You may also be entitled to a Blue Badge if you:
- Have a terminal illness which interferes with your ability to walk and has led to you being issued with a DS1500.
- Have a substantial or permanent disability that means you can’t, or it’s very difficult to walk.
- Regularly drive a vehicle and have severe disabilities with your arms.
How do I apply for a Blue Badge?
Proof of identification, an up-to-date photograph of the intended badge holder, proof of address and, if you’re automatically eligible, your original decision letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will need to be provided.
It’s also important to have your National Insurance number to hand if you’re applying for yourself, or a child reference number if the application is for an infant. If you already have a driving licence, you’ll be required to provide your details alongside the number, local council and expiry date on your current Blue Badge — if you own one.
If you’re not automatically eligible, you’ll be required to fill in an additional section on the form. You should hear back from your local council within six to eight weeks and you may be asked to complete a mobility assessment or to send extra information before you are granted a badge. If for whatever reason you are refused, you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered. To apply when you’re automatically eligible is straightforward and you can fill in the form online, or by contacting your local council. Visit: www.gov.uk/apply-bluebadge
Where can I use it?
Unlike other drivers, holding a Blue Badge allows you to park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours as long as you’re not blocking any loading or unloading areas. It’s vital that you display your blue parking clock for any wardens to see what time you arrived. You must remember, however, that owning a Blue Badge doesn’t give you free reign regarding where you can park and, if you’re not the driver, you must make sure whoever is behind the wheel also understands this.
It is only intended for on-street parking, with off-street car parks such as supermarket spaces being governed by separate rules. You must make sure you do not park anywhere which could cause an obstruction or be a danger to other road users. Doing so may result in a Penalty Charge Notice being handed out, or worse yet your vehicle may be removed. Be sure to check with any off-street car park establishments what their status is — never assume you can just park for free or you may receive a nasty surprise.
When it comes to parking in a zone which is covered by parking meters and pay-and display machines, your badge allows you to park free of charge for as long as is required. (This also goes for disabled parking bays, unless it states otherwise.)
It’s also important to realise that if you travel outside of England, but still within the UK, you’ll need to check what concessions are available with the relevant authority. The same goes for driving in London — check with Transport for London for further information. This is due to the fact the scheme doesn’t fully apply in the City of London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and part of the London Borough of Camden.
Using your badge
You must never lend your badge to your family or friends – even if they are visiting you. Also, although it’s not illegal to do so, you shouldn’t sit in the car while someone else takes advantage of the badge’s benefits. In simple terms, as long as you’re in the vehicle as a driver or passenger, anyone is able to use it. However, misuse is illegal.
If the badge is used without you in attendance, the user could be fined up to £1,000 and the badge may be confiscated. If you are a passenger, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the driver is aware of the rules.
Is there a correct way to display your badge?
The best way to do this is by placing it on the dashboard or facia panel so that it can be read through your front windscreen. Your photograph should not be visible, however, and you should ensure that all details remain legible. It’s your responsibility to make sure the badge is visible to any traffic warden that may pass your vehicle.
Using your badge abroad – is this possible?
It is currently possible to use your badge if you’re travelling to certain locations abroad since it’s recognised throughout the European Union (EU). Currently, there are no arrangements in place that would allow you to use your badge outside of the EU. However, note that the concessions provided may not be the same as those in the UK.
How do you reapply for your badge?
It’s possible to renew online and you will also receive a letter from the Blue Badge Improvement Service to remind you it’s time to renew. It’s recommended you reapply for your badge well before its expiry date; if it expires, you may be fined if you continue to use it.
New eligibility criteria…
In January this year, the Department for Transport conducted a public consultation about eligibility issues. The consultation concluded that in order to ensure that those with the greatest needs have access to a Blue Badge, a change to the criterion was needed. The new criterion says that: “A person who has an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that that person is unable to:
- Undertake any journey without it causing very considerable difficulty when walking
- Undertake any journey without there being a risk of very considerable harm to the health or safety of that person or any other person
- Follow the route of any journey without another person, assistance animal or orientation aid.
- NB: A launch date for the new criterion has not yet been decided.
North of the border there are special eligibility rules for people with mental conditions or cognitive impairments that means they lack awareness of danger from traffic, for instance.
The Scottish Government’s website says that if you want to apply for a Blue Badge on behalf of someone with a mental condition the applicant must have a “mental disorder, mental illness, personality disorder or a learning disability”. Applicants are required to show that other strategies to control the risk do not work. A different application process applies for requests under this criteria. Contact your local council for the full eligibility criteria and details of how to apply: www.mygov.scot
Thanks to Lookers, who provide a variety of car service plans, for their help with this article. Visit: www.lookers.co.uk