Concerns have been raised that rules around disabled parking permits are not being enforced.
New reports show that just four councils in England were behind half of all prosecutions for Blue Badge abuse in 2021, raising fears that misuse of the permits is being ignored in other parts of the country. Figures obtained by the PA news agency show that out of the 140 councils who provided responses, 100 did not prosecute anyone for Blue Badge offences.
The permits give free parking to people with disabilities, often closer to shops and amenities, but carry heavy fines for those misusing them or taking advantage of other people’s badges.
The disability charity Scope said that offenders had been “flying under the radar” for too long and warned that laws around the permits’ misuse were pointless if they were not enforced.
Here, we’ll examine who is eligible for a Blue Badge, the benefits they offer plus how to apply and the limits on their use.
Who is eligible for a Blue Badge?
Blue Badges are intended to help people with disabilities remain mobile. You automatically qualify for a Blue Badge if you are aged three or over and at least one of the following applies:
- you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- you receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres (a score of 8 points or more under the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component).
- you are registered blind (severely sight impaired)
- you receive a War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
- you have received a lump sum benefit within tariff levels 1 to 8 of the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation) Scheme and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.
- you receive the mobility component of PIP and have obtained 10 points specifically for descriptor E under the ‘planning and following journeys’ activity, on the grounds that you are unable to undertake any journey because it would cause you overwhelming psychological distress. In Scotland and Wales: you also automatically qualify if meet the planning and following journeys’ descriptor that indicates that you can’t follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid (12 points)
You may also be eligible for a badge if you meet other criteria such as being unable to walk unaided, are a risk to yourself near vehicles or have a child under three with a medical condition that means they need to be accompanied by bulky medical equipment or always been close to their vehicle..
Local councils will decide whether a person is eligible and a full list of the different conditions can be found on the websites of authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.
How to apply for a Blue Badge
If you automatically qualify for a Blue Badge and live in England, Scotland or Wales you can apply through the government website here. Badges cost £10 in England, £20 in Scotland and are free in Wales.
To apply you’ll need a recent digital photo showing your head and shoulders, your National Insurance number and a photo or scan of the following:
- proof of identity (such as a birth certificate, passport or driving licence)
- proof of address (such as a Council Tax bill or government letter)
- proof of benefits (if you get any)
The process in Northern Ireland, where badges cost £10, is largely the same but is accessed via the NIDirect website here.
In all cases, badges are valid for three years before they must be renewed.
What are the benefits of a Blue Badge?
A Blue Badge allows the holder, either as a driver or passenger, to park for free in most on-street locations for as long as they need, and to use dedicated disabled parking bays, usually located closer to destinations such as shops. They also allow holders to park on single and double yellow lines for up to three hours unless there are specific loading/unloading restrictions.
However, the government warns: “The Blue Badge is not a licence to park anywhere. Do not park where it would endanger, inconvenience or obstruct pedestrians or other road users.” Parking in specific no-stopping zones, such as outside schools, in bus lanes or urban clearways is also not allowed, and the badges do not automatically allow free parking in off-street locations such as private car parks.
The badge gives registered holders exemption from London’s Congestion Charge but not from ULEZ charges in London or Birmingham. The Blue Badge is also recognised in many European countries, although some also require a local permit.
When can you use a Blue Badge?
The badge can be used to park in many on-street locations, including areas where parking is usually not allowed. However, it can only be displayed if the holder is travelling in the vehicle as a driver or passenger, or if someone is collecting or dropping off the holder and needs to park at the same location. The badge must be displayed in a clearly visible location and in places where time restrictions apply a parking clock also must be used
Using someone else’s Blue Badge or allowing someone to use the badge for free parking when the holder isn’t present is a criminal offence and misuse of a Blue Badge carries fines of up to £1,000.