<h3> Drivers with mental health conditions will get disabled badges – putting millions more Blue Badges on the roads </h3>
Did you know Drivers with mental health conditions will get disabled badges? We came across this article and thought it may be of interest to some of you.
Millions of people with mental health issues are to become eligible for Blue Badge parking permits at the end of summer.
In the biggest change since the disabled scheme began in 1970, the benefit will be extended to those with ‘hidden disabilities’ from August 30.
Those with problems including dementia, autism and anxiety disorders triggered by travel or parking difficulties will be able to apply to councils for a badge.
Blue Badge holders can use disabled parking bays, park for free in pay-and-display spaces and for up to three hours on yellow lines. In London they are exempt from the congestion charge.
The move was welcomed by mental health charities and the AA, but critics warned it could lead to a shortage of parking spaces for other drivers – including those with physical disabilities – and increase the scope for fraud, which is already said to be rife.
There are 2.4million current Blue Badge holders in England and a recent study in city centres found that between 36 per cent and 54 per cent of parked vehicles already had one on display. The Government admits it has no idea how many extra people will now become eligible.
There are an estimated 700,000 people on the autism spectrum, around 850,000 with dementia and approximately three million with anxiety disorders. But many may not apply for a badge and many could be refused if they do so.
Paul Slowey of Blue Badge Fraud Investigation, which helps councils combat fraud, welcomed the reforms but warned of problems if the rules are not enforced.
He said: ‘It’s clear that people with hidden and non-physical disabilities need badges. But confidence in the Blue Badge scheme is undermined by the fact that only a minority of councils take action against misuse.’
Two out of every five councils in England admit they do not prosecute motorists for misusing a disabled parking permit, which carries a fine of up to £1,000.
The Local Government Association says that theft of Blue Badges has risen 45 per cent in a year and by six-fold since 2013 and it is estimated that one in five badges is misused. This includes legitimate holders allowing friends and family to use their badge when they are not in the vehicle.
The Government says it will set up a new task force to help councils tackle fraud and local authorities will get an extra £1.7million to help them cope with an expected flood in applications.
Jane Harris of the National Autistic Society said: ‘The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England, helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted.’
AA president Edmund King added: ‘Non-physical disabilities can be just a debilitating as physical disabilities, and we welcome this long-overdue announcement.’
But he added: ‘This is an ideal opportunity to get all local authorities to implement the law.’
Under present legislation, people with mental health issues may already qualify for a Blue Badge. But the rules do not make this clear. They say an applicant must suffer from ‘a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking’.
The Department for Transport says this confusion has meant that many people with mental health issue have lost out.
Do you suffer from mental health issues such as dementia, autism or anxiety disorders and need help, support or advice? Contact Local Counselling Centre