Advising on the national Blue Badge parking scheme

The Office for Disability estimates there are more than 11 million people living in the UK with a long term illness, impairment or disability that impacts their day-to-day life [1]. To help people overcome mobility barriers, the Disabled Person’s (Blue Badge) Parking Scheme was designed to ensure that people who experience severe mobility challenges are able to park close to their destinations.

In 2018/19 ITP carried out research on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) to inform new guidance for local authorities in England on how they can assess the eligibility of applicants who experience 'hidden disabilities'.  The work recognised that some people who experience very considerable psychological distress and/or who may present a danger to themselves (or others) when walking between a parked vehicle and their destination will experience similar constraints and challenges to people who experience very considerable difficulty when walking, or who cannot walk at all.

This research built on ITP's earlier work in 2010/11, to review the Blue Badge scheme for the DfT.  This was the first major review of the scheme since its introduction in the 1970s and it identified good practices in how the scheme was being administered and enforced by local authorities, as well as developing a ‘best practice’ approach to conducting eligibility assessments. 

Our findings were disseminated through updated non-statutory guidance which was well-received by local authority teams responsible for managing the Blue Badge scheme.

Blue Badge

Our approach to the most recent study was shaped by our previous insights, and involved:

  • In-depth interviews with medical professionals and expert advisers to assess the nature of 'hidden disabilities' relevant to revised scheme eligibility criteria. These interviews also explored procedures for determining whether applicants meet the criteria and possible approaches for seeking evidence of eligibility;
  • Wider engagement through workshops with representatives of local authorities responsible for Blue Badge Scheme administration and relevant national disabled and older people’s representative groups;
  • The definition of a list of medical conditions that people might experience if they are unable to park close to their destination, such as considerable psychological distress.
  • Developing a set of core assessment principles that local authorities could adopt or adapt into their existing eligibility assessment processes.

As a result of ITP’s research, DfT recently issued new guidance to local authorities (which we co-authored) and publicised the scope for people with hidden disabilities, such as severe anxiety or advanced dementia, may be eligible to apply for a Blue Badge parking permit to help them park closer to their destinations.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “As a society, we don’t do enough for people with hidden disabilities. I hope this change to Blue Badge guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives" [2].

If you’d like to get involved with projects similar to this one, ITP is currently recruiting for a transport professional with 8+ years’ experience to join the Transport Strategy Team. Click here to find out about the role and its requirements.