This post will discuss two Blue Badge related topics. The first topic is the changes to the Blue Badge Scheme that are due to take place in 2019—which will include the current eligibility, the proposed eligibility and what the changes mean. The second topic is about how the system works in terms of car parks and the PIP disability benefits which cause a disadvantage in the scheme.
Hopefully, this will build awareness of the welcomed changes and currently flawed system.
Changes to the Blue Badge:
This is actually something I think the government have done right around the subject of disability. Something that is not usually said nowadays with the implementation of the disability benefit, PIP.
So, what have the government actually done right for a change?
They have opened up the Blue Badge scheme to those that have invisible disabilities.
For those of you who do not know, the Blue Badge Scheme is a parking permit given to those who have a disability, particularly those who have the mobility award. It allows people to park close to their destination and on yellow lines—this benefits those that cannot walk as far—it also allows the person to park in bigger bays which is useful if somebody is in a wheelchair or needs the extra space to stand up.
Currently, you are automatically entitled to a blue badge if one of the following applies:
- you or a child are registered as blind
- you or a child get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- you get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and scored 8 points or more in the ‘moving around’ area of your assessment – check your decision letter if you’re not sure
- you get War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
- you received a lump sum payment as part of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (tariffs 1 to 8), and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability
The DLA benefit component is available to those who have not yet been transferred to PIP, are under 16 years of age or over 70 years of age. The PIP benefit component is anyone disabled between the ages of 16 and 69 who have been forced onto the PIP system.
However, due to the change from DLA to PIP, it is extremely difficult to get the required 8 points on the mobility component, especially as there are ONLY two tick-boxes. Yet alone the “moving around” category.
You need a total of 8 points to be awarded any help.
- The ability to plan and follow a journey
- You get 12 points if you cannot plan or follow a journey without the use of an aide or orientation device. (However as the sessions are not recorded, it is likely that your assessor will ignore this comment)
- You get 8 points if you cannot plan the route of a journey
- moving around
- You get 12 points if you cannot move more than 20 meters (18 seconds).
- 8 points if you can move 20-50 meters unaided or aided (under 1 minute).
As you can see, these descriptors are vague. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume that they were vague so that they could assess you on a case by case basis. That is not the case, the assessor will take it literally and they will lie.
I mean common sense says you cannot go anywhere and return home within one minute, right?
The proposed changes to the blue badge eligibility can at least give people who were once on the mobility component the help that they need. Well, a little of the help they need and it helps those with invisible disabilities—part of the disabled community that is often ignored, even by the disabled community itself.
So, along with the current eligibility, these changes will include people who:
- Have Autism and struggle to travel due to their condition
- Anyone who cannot travel alone or any distance without risk of injury or risk to health
- Anyone where travel or mobility causes psychological distress.
As someone who was originally entitled to join this scheme (and is staying on this scheme until 2020 if I don’t win tribunal), I am looking forward to this change. I think there is a lot about invisible disabilities that many people don’t know or understand and this makes it so that people get the help that they are entitled to have.
Well, some of the help…
Some people may disagree with this step forward. Ableists will complain about the fact that they have to park a distance while people who in their eyes “claim” to be disabled are reserved a space.
These people can walk without getting tired, do not have to worry about a panic attack or melt-down because of something unexpected and are generally healthy. Let them complain. I am sure many people would rather have their luck in health than the disability, illness or mental health condition that they have.
Even people in the disabled community might be concerned. Those that have mobility issues but not an invisible disability may be worried about the disabled bays availability. But the reason it is hard for disabled people to find a bay at the minute is because of the ableist attitude demonstrated above. They are more than likely to abuse the bays themselves.
I, personally, welcome the idea and to be honest, I don’t think this is going to lessen the availability of the bays.
Here are two reasons why:
Private & Council Car Parks
Everyone knows that the abuse of disabled faculties is common or if you don’t, believe me when I say it is. This abuse is seen a lot in private car parks and very rarely in council car parks, the reason for this is very simple. The law is different.
The reason Private Car parks are abused compared to Council Car Parks is because you do not have to pay the fine in a private car park whereas you do if you are issued a ticket in a council car park. The fine is relatively steep too, starting from £50 depending on where you live outside of London, £80 if you live in London.
So, as you can imagine, these rules are usually obeyed in council car parks.
But it is a different story for private car parks. The owners of the private car parks are barely protected because the law works differently. If someone abuses the rules in a private car park, even if they have been issued a ticket, they do not have to pay.
This means the owners of private car parks tend not to issue tickets as they know most of the people abusing the rules are likely to throw the ticket into a bin. Yes, the owner can go to court but it is a lot of hassle for a little bit of money and if the person breaking the rules finds a loop-hole or manages to worm their way out of the situation, it leaves the company to pay the court costs.
So you can see why the owners or companies of car parks tend not to issue tickets. However, this has another effect, it means that the person that abuses the rules learns there are no consequences—a bit like Pavlov dogs—and so repeats the behaviour again and again.
Until the laws of private parking are changed, the bays will be abused over and over again by able-bodied people who are ignorant of disabilities, ableists or simply just don’t care.
This is only one reason why the new changes to the scheme will not affect the availability of bays. It is already affected by abusive behaviour, preventing many people who need the bays from parking.
So how should this be fixed?
- Make it so that private car park owners can enforce their tickets in the same way that the council can on any car parks that they own
- Set a national fee that is implied to anyone that parks in a disabled bay regardless as to whether it is owned by the council or by a private car park
Transfer to PIP
As I already said, If you are disabled, over 16 years of age or are below 70 years of age, then you will know how unfair the transfer from DLA to PIP is. Many people claim that their assessors lie on their report, marking them out to be more able or adaptable than they actually are. I’ve had the same thing happen.
My assessor said I could pinch with my index finger and thumb. My thumb isn’t even aware it is a thumb!
Add to this the ridiculous tick-box exercise and you can see it is almost impossible to get PIP for mobility:
To give you a reference as to how difficult it is using the average timings calculated on google:
- If you can walk more than 3 minutes, you receive no points on the “moving around” section.
- If you can walk between 1 and 3 minutes, then you receive 4 points
- if you can walk for less than a minute but more than 18 seconds, you receive 8 points.
- Any less than 18 seconds and you get 12 points.
I was granted the 3-minute walk distance—that would not get me anywhere close to a bus stop. And to quote my assessor, they
…cannot take into account the struggle with stairs, slopes, hills or weather conditions as these activities do not fall into the discriptors.
They are also:
unable to count the effect of carrying groceries for the same reason.
Personally, I think these things are what SHOULD be counted under mobility as they are massive impairments on independence—which is what the I in PIP is supposed to stand for, right?
But the effect of this means that people like myself, friends of mine, including friends in wheelchairs, and others are awarded lack of points that actually take away independence and prevent us from joining the scheme.
This is the reason the opening of the scheme is a good idea, it means that those in the process of the tribunal or those that gave up but were not awarded the 8 points in “Moving around” but were given a mixture of both activities are able to apply for the blue badge scheme.
In one form, it is a step backwards on the PIP system, though most certainly, not directly. So the people who are given the blue bade in the new requirements are probably people who would have been given the blue badge if DLA still existed for people between the ages of 16 and 70.
You could argue that an able-bodied person could request a blue badge but there would not be any point in them doing so. There is this myth that the badge entitles us to free parking but even with the badge, I’ve had to pay full price at Pay and Displays or multi-storey car parks.
The only real benefit of the blue badge is getting as close to the destination as possible and having the little bit of extra space.
So how should this be fixed?
- Scrap the tick box system and assess someone on a case by case basis.
- Ensure all assessments are recorded at the assessor company’s cost. This is to protect both, the assessor and the claimant.
- If the government are insistent on using the tick box system, then the descriptors have to be
- vague to allow for a case by case basis
- more “activity” elements, such as the ability to carry shopping, socialising, conditions of weather and conditions of surfaces.
What do you think about the blue badge system changes? Any other issues you think need to be solved around this topic?
Thanks for reading.
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