Allocation of blue badges – an essential lifeline for many older people, has become a post code lottery in Wales
Published on 18 April 2019 04:04 PM
The allocation of blue badges, the scheme that enables people with certain disabilities, or their carers, to park their car close to services, has become a post code lottery in Wales, says Age Cymru.
While the automatic qualification for a blue badge, based on aspects such as being in receipt of Personal Independent Payments or the Disability Living Allowances is consistently applied throughout Wales, there are widespread inconsistencies in how the discretionary qualifications are applied since local authorities adopt different approaches.
One of the discretionary qualifications states that applicants need a walking aid or oxygen to walk a short distance. However, there seems to be a wide discrepancy between what local authorities consider to be a short distance.
Age Cymru has also heard that older people are put off by the application forms, how little help there is with filling them in, and knowing what to say to maximise their chances of success. Others have reported problems providing evidence on behalf of someone with a severe mental impairment, such as dementia, when they have already been discharged by their consultant as nothing more can be done to improve their condition.
One older person contacting the charity said the application process was both humiliating and intrusive. Another said that the process took far too long for a scheme that is supposed to help those in urgent need of support, particularly with vital hospital visits and those nearing the end of their lives.
The charity has also heard that some care homes now have to apply for individual blue badges for each eligible resident whereas in the past they could apply for a single badge for the home itself. This has proved to be an administrative nightmare for care homes, particularly as few if any of the residents are likely to improve their mobility. It also adds to the administrative burden of short-staffed councils, and leads to longer waiting times for a badge.
Age Cymru’s policy and campaigns manager Valerie Billingham said: “the assessment process seems to focus more on the medical model of disability rather than the social one that actually reflects what an older person needs or wishes to do and how a blue badge would help them to overcome the barriers they face in their day to day living.
“The current system of linking eligibility criteria with welfare benefits is intrinsically ineffective as some individuals prefer not to claim benefits but still need a blue badge. Many older people do not claim benefits for a number of reasons including pride or even not realising they are entitled to certain benefits”.
The charity, which recently gave evidence to the National Assembly for Wales’ Equality, Local Government, and Communities Committee on the blue badge scheme, is calling for a more consistent assessment process that better reflects people’s needs, and for more support for people making the applications.
Robin Thomas 81 - Maesteg
I served in the Military Police for 10 years and the South Wales Police for 35 years retiring in 2003. During my working life I had no serious illness nor was I ever hospitalised. In March 2014 I had a heart attack which required open heart surgery. I made a full recovery over a passage of recuperation.
In 2016 I suffered two mini strokes which again required surgery to unblock a neck artery. A few days later I had a seizure and was airlifted to hospital. I made a slow recovery. However, I am now only able to walk slowly and am prone to stumbling. Also, I cannot stand for very long.
Last year I decided to apply for a blue badge. I am able to drive and every day I go swimming at the local Maesteg pool. Unfortunately the restrictive council parking near the pool is only enjoyed by blue badge holders. I went to the Bridgend Council to apply for one and the first question I was asked was am I on any benefits. I was proud to say no. Nevertheless, I supplied my recent medical history supplied by my consultant. I was asked regarding my walking capabilities which I told them as above. They took all my details and even to printed all the correspondence I had provided. I was then told I did not have sufficient points to meet the requirements for a badge mainly because I had not had any points for benefits.
Barbara Doughty - Rhondda
My initial application was soon after my husband died in December 2011. He had Alzheimer's so we had grab rails fitted around the house. After he died my mobility was greatly reduced so I applied at the One 4 All in Treorchy Library for a Blue Badge. There were not any questions relating to mobility aids fitted in the home so I attached a note listing what was fitted. However, when I handed in the form, the assistant removed the note stating it was not needed. I received a telephone call some time later asking if I had any mobility aids fitted in the house and I explained what had happened. Thankfully, a blue badge was issued.
When I renewed my application by post with the required photographs and ID attached, I still had a phone call some days later requesting photographs. By the renewal time for my latest application the One 4 All had closed and I was obliged to make an appointment at Treorchy Library, for which I had to wait three weeks. I had to stand outside the office, no chair available, until the clerk unlocked the door. The application form was checked, along with the photographs and ID with everything in order. Seven days later I had a telephone call requesting photographs. I explained they were with the application form complete with ID.
The conversation with the clerk laughable:
Were you wearing a pink jacket? - I couldn't remember
Have you got children in the Welsh School? - No, I have great grand children
Can you come down before 12 to have photographs done – No!
By 11.50am there was another telephone call informing me they had found the required photographs.