Blue Badges which allow free or discounted parking around the country to people with mobility issues are to be given out to a wider range of people due to rule changes.
The government has added hidden disabilities, such as autism, mental health problems and dementia to the list of conditions that qualify blue badge use, meaning that more families will be able to use designated parking spaces.
Reports indicate that this is the biggest change to the Blue Badge Scheme in 40 years and it is estimated that around 44,000 more people will get access to them in the first year. This extension of the qualifying criteria means that those who cannot face a journey without serious psychological distress will find trips to the shops, GP and more places much easier.
Under the current scheme, people with a physical disability, or PIPs claimants who have at least 8 points in the mobility portion of their claim are eligible.
The new rules mean that more people on PIP will be eligible, as will more families with autistic children. This has been applauded by groups across the UK as the government have recognised that people with hidden disabilities often struggle with visiting shops, walking long distances and using public transport.
Mental Health charity Mind, said this move: “shows greater recognition of the many barriers faced by some people with mental health problems when it comes to leaving the house and making journeys.”
These changes have been announced less than a year after a legal case found that many people with mental health problems lose out on the PIP benefit due to the assessment process.
The National Autistic Society has also praised these changes saying that the new rules will make a “massive difference to the lives” of the many autistic people and their families in the UK. “Just leaving the house can be a challenge for many autistic people involving detailed preparation and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong. Some autistic people may not be aware of the dangers of the road or become overwhelmed by busy or loud environments. The possibility of not being able to find a parking space near where you’re going can mean you can’t contemplate leaving the house at all.”
The government have said the changes will come into effect early next year, with drafts going before parliament later this year. This is part of the plans to improve accessibility across all modes of transport in the Inclusive Transport Strategy, which aims to make the UKs transport network fully inclusive by 2030.