People with non-visible disabilities, such as dementia and anxiety disorders, can now access Blue Badge parking permits.
The Blue Badge scheme has been extended in England to include people with anxiety orders, brain injuries and people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.
A Blue Badge usually lets you park for free on streets with parking meters or pay-and-display machines, in disabled parking bays, and on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours unless there’s a ‘no loading’ sign.
The Department for Transport has issued new guidance to councils in England on Blue Badge parking permit eligibility, along with a new online eligibility checker to make the scheme clearer for people before they apply.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We know that for some people, the possibility of not being able to find a parking space can make even leaving the house a challenge, which is why the Blue Badge is so important.
“The scheme, which is already a lifeline for so many disabled people, will make a huge difference to those with non-visible conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis. It is my sincere wish that these changes will improve even more people’s lives.”
The Blue Badge scheme means people with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers, as they are less able to take public transport or walk longer distances.
Plans to extend the scheme to those with non-visible conditions were announced last summer following an eight-week consultation. It is an important part of the government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health.
It will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and other amenities, while also helping combat loneliness by helping them stay connected to family and friends.
Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson said: “Today is a pivotal moment for thousands of people with hidden disabilities across the country, many of whom face unacceptable discrimination or even abuse when using disabled parking spaces.
“The changes we’re making will be life-changing for these disabled people, allowing them to go about their daily lives without experiencing unnecessary stress or worry.”
To help councils with the expected increase in applications, the department has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7m in the first year of the programme.