Business Disability Forum welcomes new guidance published over the weekend (15 June), which extends the Blue Badge parking scheme to include people with developing conditions and severe mental health conditions. But the non-for-profit membership organisation says the announcement of a “misuse and fraud” review alongside the guidance gives out mixed messages to disabled people and reinforces unhelpful stereotypes.

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Research, Business Disability Forum, said:

“We welcome the revised guidance which extends eligibility for Blue Badge parking to people with developing conditions, severe mental health conditions and others who may be at risk of harm due to reduced situational awareness, for example.

“Our Advice Service receives many questions about the use of Blue Badge parking from those who were not previously eligible to apply to the Scheme but who face significant barriers when parking or navigating getting out of a vehicle.

“Whilst people with mental health conditions or less visible conditions such as autism and learning disabilities were not exempt from applying to the Scheme previously, some of the language and elements of the application process were geared more around conditions affecting mobility.

“We also welcome the clear recognition within the guidance that the need for a Blue Badge can fluctuate over a three-year period, due to medical treatment or a developing condition.

“The announcement of a public awareness campaign about the Blue Badge Scheme is also important. When we asked disabled people about any difficulties they experience when using the scheme, abuse and harassment from members of the public was a key factor. Many people who contacted us were carers for adults or children with conditions which the extended guidance now more explicitly covers.

“Business Disability Forum was, however, disappointed that such an inclusive move from the Government was announced in the same press release as advising that a new task group will undertake a “misuse and fraud” review of the Scheme. While we understand effective use of any scheme should of course be monitored, the announcement of this review at the same time as the improved eligibility criteria sends out unhelpful and mixed messages to disabled people.

“This could have been positioned better and in a way that did not associate the potential increased use of the Blue Badge Scheme with “fraud”, particularly in relation to a scheme designed to support disabled people who are already recipients of unhelpful narratives.”

Without parking and public transport which are accessible, it can be difficult for disabled people to find and remain in employment. Business Disability Forum is currently conducting its own survey seeking disabled people’s views on using public transport and Blue Badge parking. To complete the ‘Getting There: How accessible is transport in 2019?’ survey online, go to  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PQDP9XT.

To receive the survey in a different format, please email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk . The survey will close at 8am on Wednesday 10 July. Follow the debate on accessible transport at #BDFGettingThere

Business Disability Forum is a leading non-profit membership organisation which exists to transform the life chances of disabled people. With over 25 years’ experience, it brings together business leaders, disabled people, and Government to understand what needs to change to improve the life opportunities and experiences of disabled people in employment, economic growth, and society more widely. Business Disability Forum provides practical, evidence-based, strategic solutions for businesses to recruit, retain, and provide inclusive products and services to disabled people.

For more information, please visit: http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/about-us/

Business Disability Forum is responding to the Department of Transport’s ‘Running a Blue Badge Scheme Guidance’ published on 15th June. To view the guidance, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-blue-badge-scheme-local-authority-guidance-england

Department of Transport issued a press release entitled ‘Review of Blue Badge Fraud as scheme is extended to those with ‘hidden disabilities. The press release can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/review-of-blue-badge-fraud-as-scheme-is-extended-to-those-with-hidden-disabilities