Weekly Poll – Blue Badge Scheme (Week Beginning 11 January 2021)
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 11 January 2021, we asked a question about the Blue Badge scheme, a topic suggested by Transport Scotland.
Do you think the Blue Badge scheme delivers a user-friendly and effective service to badge holders?
- YES – 29% (62 respondents)
- NO – 71% (154 respondents)
There was consensus amongst respondents that the Blue Badge scheme is a vital initiative that provides disabled people with the means to access essential supplies and services. However, our weekly poll highlights that the majority of respondents believed improvements can be made to the scheme to ensure it meets the needs of disabled people across Scotland. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Application and Renewals
A number of respondents believed the process for Blue Badge applications and renewals can be arduous and time-consuming. This can make the process stressful for disabled people, particularly when there is such a reliance on the scheme for accessing key services.
“I always get really stressed when it is time to renew my Blue Badge. I rely on it so much to get parked near where I need to go, but the process to get it renewed is always a stressful one and asks for too much paperwork that you have already supplied.”
“Please speak to people about how the system could work for them, because as it is, all the stress, anxiety and burden is on the person applying.”
“The system is overcomplicated and not person-centred at all. It is designed to work for councils, not blue badge applicants.”
“I dread the renewal of my blue badge. So much paperwork to gather every time.”
“The renewal process is too bureaucratic, particularly as your main details are already held.”
Respondents questioned the need to ask disabled people with long-term conditions to renew their badge every 3 years, when it is unlikely that their condition will have changed. It was suggested that lengthier renewal periods should apply to people with long-term conditions, which in turn may reduce administration costs for local authorities.
“If the system was more rights-based and targeted then less folk would need to reapply every three years as some conditions are lifelong.”
“For many our disability does not change, it only gets worse. Make the Blue Badge expiry date 5 years or more for some and save on stress and anxiety and the administration burden and costs.”
“Those with permanent conditions which cannot be treated or cured, such as spinal injuries, should not need to reapply.”
Integration with other Benefits and Schemes
To streamline the Blue Badge application and renewal process, a portion of respondents suggested a centralised system involving integration with other benefit and grant schemes. This could be in the form of a smart card, which stores all relevant details.
“A central point where local authorities could check for proof of disability. This would save me having to continually provide copies of the same information to local authorities for this and other purposes.”
“So many things could be linked to simplify the process, such as linking Motability car recipients, disabled council tax rebates and Personal Independence Payment (PIP)/Disability Living Allowance (DLA) awards. We need to link these up and use them as evidence rather than keep duplicating.”
“The system is over complex and needs simplified/linked into other systems such as disabled persons council tax discounts.”
“It would be good if the Blue Badge could be credit card size and be chipped with your bus pass details too.”
“Smart card – one card that covers Blue Badge, Bus Pass and Thistle Card.”
To help alleviate stress and ensure badge holders reapply in ample time, it was suggested by respondents to introduce renewal reminders.
“You don’t get sent a reminder and my badge has expired a couple of times without me noticing. Could a reminder be sent out from their records?”
“Reminders that your badge is due for update and an idea of waiting times. Both my mum and I were caught short due to no reminder and I had to beg my local council to rush my application. I am a wheelchair user, and my mum uses crutches, so an accessible space is a priority for us.”
Blue Badge Charge
Local authorities in Scotland can charge a statutory fee of up to £20 for issuing a Blue Badge. There were calls from respondents for a consistent approach to the charge across each local authority area, with some stating that the fee should be scrapped.
“It would be better if there was more consistency – I have lived in various council areas some of them you have to pay for the blue badge, some you don’t.”
“It is inconsistent from council-to-council area and some councils charge and some don’t.”
“Why do I pay £20 every time in Falkirk when other council areas don’t charge?”
“You shouldn’t have to pay for the blue badge. People can’t afford this. It’s equivalent to a week’s food for me.”
“Stop charging for renewals.”
It is important to ensure that Blue Badge application forms are available to complete in a variety of formats, which incorporate the principles of inclusive communication. There was recognition of the need to have different methods for applying, including equal access to online and hard copy versions of the form. One respondent suggested converting the application form into easy read, a format that uses pictures and simple text to enable the document to be easily understood by people with learning disabilities.
“For me, the process is so much simpler now that it’s online, but for people who don’t have skills or equipment to scan and email documents it could create a barrier. A suggestion for improvement is to provide a contact number for support and advice if people have difficulties scanning and uploading documents.”
“Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make it easy for people who cannot use online, to access hard copies of the application”.
“I think they should have easy read guides to the application process. This would make it easier and less stressful for people to apply for their badge.”
Blue Badge Misuse
There was considerable concern from respondents regarding Blue Badge misuse. In order to curb the misuse, respondents believed there must be stricter legislation, along with greater local authority monitoring and enforcement.
“Local authorities will not enforce or police the daily abuse and misuse of clearly marked disabled parking spaces by non-disabled people, by non- Blue Badge holders, by people just wanting a drop of point or in the case of courier companies, a very convenient loading/unloading bay.”
“There needs to be legislation behind the abuse of Blue Badges. People abuse accessible spaces constantly and during this pandemic its been so much worse. There’s been times that every space has been taken up by non-Blue Badge holders and we’ve had to leave places without going in.”
“Stop the misuse of the scheme by family members taking advantage of it when it is not for the benefit of the blue badge named person.”
“We need more available spaces. I live in a small town on the high street and they have one space which is so far away from the chemist and shops it’s pointless. It’s also misused most days, and no one monitors it.”
“Get back the wardens to clear the disabled spaces of those who are not disabled and do not hold a badge. Charge them for parking in disabled spaces.”
“Blue Badge rules are not always consistent or applied consistently by traffic wardens or by councils who I feel need education and training on the scheme.”
It is important that local authorities promote the scheme across all relevant channels, to ensure that disabled people that meet the eligibility criteria, can benefit from increased access to essential services. A public awareness campaign may also help to reduce the level of Blue Badge misuse.
“Wider publicity and recognition of the scheme”
“Build a greater awareness that it is applicable to those with chronic hidden illnesses. It would also be brilliant to have a website where you pop in a postcode to find local spaces to help prepare for journeys.”
“There is a lack of understanding of how the Blue Badge system works, who is entitled to a badge. We need to have an education programme on this issue. On top of this we need to make sure that people living with disabilities know how to obtain a badge.”
To conclude, the Blue Badge scheme provides disabled people with the means to access essential goods and supplies. In practice, there are a number of areas that respondents have identified which can assist with improving the scheme for badge holders. It was suggested that people with long-term conditions should not have to complete a renewal form after the standard 3-year period, as their conditions are unlikely to change. There are opportunities to centralise the data that is gathered and integrate it with other existing benefits and schemes, which may assist with reducing the amount of paperwork that is required when completing a renewal form. Respondents believed that the Blue Badge charge should be consistent across Scotland, with some calling for the fee to be scrapped. The application process must also be accessible, by taking into consideration the principles of inclusive communication. Blue Badge misuse is deeply concerning for disabled people and must be addressed through greater enforcement by local authorities and the police. An awareness campaign can help raise the profile of the scheme to the general public and may also deter people from Blue Badge misuse.