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Blue badge changes 'chaotic'
The government has faced criticism from several quarters over new rules for assessing who qualifies for disabled parking.
Following the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance by Personal Independence Payments, recipients will automatically be eligible for a blue badge.
People who can walk further than 50 metres may still apply directly to their local authority to see whether they meet other eligibility criteria.
Lord Touhig, a Labour peer who raised the issue at question time on 26 March 2014, warned this presented "real difficulties" for people with autism and other cognitive impairments.
From the shadow front bench, Lord Davies of Oldham claimed that "the introduction of the PIP has been carried out somewhat chaotically, with people waiting for ages for a decision on their application".
He asked how many of those who were eligible for a blue badge are unlikely to qualify under the new scheme.
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer advised the House that the "vast majority of them will qualify under PIP" but added: "Local authorities will make determinations on a case-by-case basis of those people who apply for a blue badge under other eligibility criteria."
There was some discord among peers over the position of those with non-visible disabilities.
Conservative Baroness Seccombe expressed her view that "there is nothing so irritating as seeing a young, fit person using a blue badge to park illegally", but was upbraided by others who disagreed.
Plaid Cymru peer Lord Wigley pointed out that "the person who is walking away from a car may be the parent or carer of a disabled person who has that need", and crossbencher Baroness Hollins said of the parents of autistic people: "It may be that their son or daughter looks just like any other fit adult."
Lady Kramer described abuse of the blue badge system as "thoroughly despicable" and said the government is "determined to stamp down on it very hard".
She made it clear that carers cannot use the blue badge "when they are not with the person who has the need".
She explained that new measures such as plain-clothes enforcement officers and a nationwide database on handheld devices had not yet yielded an official fall in the abuse of disabled parking, but that "anecdotally, local authorities are informing us that it has greatly strengthened their hand".
Blue Badge Cheating not tolerated!
Blue badge cheating will not be tolerated
Tue, 11 February 2014
A blue badge cheat was ordered to pay £200 in fines and costs after pleading guilty at Feltham magistrate’s court this week.
The court heard how Bhinder Bhomra of West Park Close, Heston, illegally parked in a disabled bay in Holloway Street car park in Hounslow, while using her dead mother’s blue badge.
However Bhomra claimed to civil enforcement officers, who were checking blue badges while on regular patrol, that she thought the badge she was displaying was her friend’s blue badge who she calls "mother".
But after an investigation and an interview later, Bhomra admitted the badge she used was her dead mother’s.
Cllr Ed Mayne, cabinet member for community safety and regulation, said: “Blue badge cheats deny disabled users of a parking space which is theirs alone to use.
“Hounslow Council takes the matter very seriously and if you are caught, the consequences are clear.”
To report misuse of blue badges call Hounslow Council’s anti-fraud team on 020 8583 2375 or email email@example.com.
Free parking for the OBESE
Free parking for the OBESE: Overweight people given 'blue badges' because they can only walk short distances
- Walsall Council gave permits after people put obesity as medical condition
- Coventry City Council also had overweight people apply for badges
- Applicants have to go through medical tests before passes are approved
- Guidelines mean obese people can get one if weight limits ability to walk
- Revelations come days after research said half of Britons would be obese by 2050
Overweight Brits are being given disabled parking permits – because they can only walk short distances.
People with a disability have to undergo a series of medical assessments before they are considered eligible for a ‘blue badge’.
But the guidelines mean people who are obese can apply for the passes if their weight limits their ability to walk.
Passes: People applying for 'blue badges' have to go through stringent tests before they are approbved
The revelations come the same week a shock report estimated half of Britons will be obese by 2050.
Critics have called for more stringent tests to be carried out to decide if an applicant’s weight issues are self-inflicted.
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said: ‘Councils have got to do some pretty good digging to make quite sure that they do not exclude fat people who are fat through no fault of their own.
‘I think there are a lot of scroungers who will want to have buggies, but there are a lot of people who have a genetic problem which has made them fat.
Worrying: A report released last week suggested half of the British population would be obese by 2050
‘I think this is wasting money and its disastrous that you should be dealing these passes out to people who shouldn’t actually be receiving them.
‘They have got to decide the difference between one and the other.
‘I don’t think councils should be giving these passes out as the obesity problem gets worse.
'That is pandering to an individual who should be taking their own responsibility and getting themselves in shape.
'The ones who can be guaranteed these passes should be having a letter from their GP or some kind of medical practioner justifying that they should have one (a pass), because they have a condition which makes them the size they are.
‘I am afraid we have to be brutal about it and they get driven by someone who can actually ferry them around.
‘There are 2million people that are deserving of bariatric surgery.
‘Are you going to give 2million people free passes all over the country?
‘Local councils have to arrange for weight management courses and put these people on weight management courses, which are considerably cheaper.
‘No just for the local council, but to the local medical services.
‘It is opening the box for further abuse of systems which deserving people need.
‘The people who are very fat and need this kind of thing, by virtue of their disposition or other medical problems, cannot maintain easily a healthy weight. ‘
The abilities of local councils to issue badges to those who are seriously overweight was obtained in a Freedom of Information request.
Evaluation: Applicants have to go through stringent medical tests before they are given a parking permit
Walsall Council revealed they had given out passes to applicants who had listed obesity as a medical condition.
Coventry City Council also disclosed that applicants had put down obesity as one of their reasons behind asking for a blue badge.
The Department for Transport guidelines state a person can apply for a permit if they have a 'permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking'.
Robert Oxley, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘Councils need to be careful when giving out expensive permits ensuring they only go to those who really need the help.
‘Obesity costs taxpayers a fortune and the best cure is exercise and diet - a bit more walking might be the best prescription available.
‘When people are found abusing the scheme it’s vital this is not ignored in order to maintain faith in the badge system.’
More than a quarter of adults (26 per cent) are obese, up from just 8 per cent in 1980.
In 2007, an alarming government review warned that by 2050, obesity would affect half of all adults and cost the economy £50billion a year.
Cllr Chris Towe, portfolio holder for resources at Walsall Council Coalition said: 'All assessments are undertaken by an independent mobility assessor in line with Government legislation on 1 April 2012.
'Each applicant is assessed against their mobility not their medical condition.'
Rules: The Department for Transport guidelines state a person can apply for a permit if they have a 'permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking'
Woman, 90, denied disabled parking
A WOMAN of 90 has been refused a disabled parking Blue Badge because she can still walk, despite the fact that she has a number of serious medical conditions.
Relatives of great-grandmother Blanche Kaye, 90, were shocked to discover she had “failed to meet the criteria” to qualify for the scheme.
Mrs Kaye, of Dunfermline, Fife, suffers from mental health issues and mobility problems and is blind in one eye.
She has had a one hip and two knee replacements, cannot walk without guidance or support and suffers from glaucoma in her good eye.
She also lacks co-ordination, struggles to breathe when walking, and relies on her family to get about.
However, when Mrs Kay’s family tried to renew her disability parking permit recently, they were told she did not qualify because she could still walk, despite her many difficulties.
Her daughter Anna, 56, said: “I got a letter from transportation services at Fife Council saying the criteria had changed and she didn’t automatically qualify.
“Although mum has very many difficulties, because she can still walk they’re withdrawing it, which suggests that everybody who has a blue badge should be in a wheelchair.
“There are probably many people over 90 who can walk, but mum has problems. It’s discrimination against people with limited mobility and it’s so frustrating.
“They don’t realise she has problems with co-ordination and can’t walk without me supporting and guiding her. Even short distances are a struggle. She gets totally breathless and keeps stopping to have a rest.
“There are limited things she enjoys doing. She loves going in the car and going to Marks and Spencer, and that’s going to change because the parking is too far away for her to walk.”
Anna’s sister, Rosemary Corner, 61, said their mother should be “enjoying what time she has left” and deserved “to have her life made as easy as possible”.
She added: “I know the criteria have changed and there has been abuse of the system, but surely not being able to walk should not be the only criteria.
“We are not all cheats. Some of us are genuine cases and should be treated as such.”
Anne Cowan, Fife Council’s lead professional on accessible transport and concessions, confirmed Mrs Kay’s application was refused as “it was not considered to meet the national criteria”.
However, last night she agreed to review the application.
Ms Cowan said: “There have been significant changes to the legislation over the last two years, including a change in the qualifying criteria and new mobility assessments.
“There is no statutory right of appeal against the decision. However, in Fife we will review a decision if the applicant does not agree with it.”
Blue Badge Wars
Blue badge wars: City parking bosses say they are losing millions because of other councils
Liverpool hit by failures of neighbours
Liverpool parking bosses fear they are being left millions of pounds out of pocket – after Mersey councils handed out more than 170,000 blue badges to drivers in the last five years.
An ECHO investigation found that although stricter guidelines have seen the number of badges by some authorities fall, some councils have increased the amount they are giving out.
Only Liverpool council – which estimates blue badge fraud and misuse could be costing it alone £1m or more a year – has prosecuted anyone for breaking the rules.
It acted 2,500 times, yet other Merseyside councils did not have a single prosecution.
In response to the figures obtained by the ECHO from the five Merseyside councils, city parking chiefs called for a regional-level task force to bring all authorities in line.
They fear a large proportion of the blue badges being given out by other Mersey councils are being used in the city, either by people coming to shop or, in some cases, park all day while they go to work.
A blue badge can potentially save a motorist more than £3,500 a year. But while most are being used legitimately, Liverpool council head of parking services Roy Tunstall said he believed there was inconsistency between how different authorities are applying the criteria.
And he added that where there are more badges issued there is a greater risk of badges being abused.
He said: “It costs us around £2m a year just from legitimate use. You can park free of charge all day in an on-street pay and display bay.
“Liverpool is getting the headache for the reason that the other authorities, in my view, are not investing in effectively tackling blue badge abuse.”
He added he knew of examples where one neighbouring authority had given a badge to someone for an illness where Liverpool had failed someone with the same problems. And one Liverpool resident who had a badge withdrawn under the new guidelines had been entitled to free parking for years because of irritable bowel syndrome.
The authority which issued the most badges over the last five years was Wirral, with 72,781, although 7,569 of them are classed as “no longer in use”.
But the authority said it had prosecuted no-one for fraudulent use. All authorities, except St Helens, are issuing fewer badges.
According to the figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, between 2010 and 2011 the number it gave out rose from 2,737 to 4,049. Last year it went up again to 4,218.
A spokesman said the system was “extremely robust,” adding: “St Helens along with every other local authority has been given new powers to tackle Blue Badge scheme abuse.
Powers include refusing to issue and withdraw and cancel badges which are lost, stolen or expired, withdraw due to misuse and the power to recover on the spot badges which have been cancelled or misused and to inspect badges.
“The measures are designed to tackle badge fraud and misuse, and to make the system fairer and more sustainable in the long term for those disabled people who rely on it most.
“The system is extremely robust and we strictly follow the guidelines set out by the Department of Transport.”
Knowsley also confirmed it had not prosecuted anyone during the last five years, but said the responsibility for on-street enforcement was with Merseyside police.
But a spokesman said: “In Knowsley, we go to great lengths to ensure that blue badges are used legitimately and only issued to those who need them.
“There was a national review of the blue badge process in January, 2012, which led to the introduction of a new scheme.
“This aimed to support legitimate applicants by reducing the risk of fraud, making the criteria for awarding a blue badge clearer and the process as simple as possible.
"We have a number of checks in place to prevent fraudulent use of the badges, including strict identification procedures, independent medical checks, independent printing of badges and regular external reviews.
“The number of blue badges issued in Knowsley has reduced from 3,546 five years ago to 2,735 and we have not had cause to bring any prosecutions for misuse."