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Blue Badge changes are a welcome move

Blue Badge changes are a welcome move
8th August 2018 Ian Streets

Disabled people and representative groups have provided mixed feedback to the Government’s announcement that the Blue Badge scheme is to be extended to cover hidden disabilities.
The Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, announced recently that the scheme, which he described as “a lifeline for disabled people”, will cover people with autism, mental health conditions and other hidden impairments next year.
Many have welcomed the move, but there has also been criticism from some who want to know why the changes can’t be introduced more quickly. Others have voiced concern than without stronger enforcement the distribution of more Blue Badges will lead to excessive demand for the already limited number of spaces.
The Blue Badge scheme already means that 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. The Minister said the changes amount to the biggest overhaul to the scheme since the 1970s.
He said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently. The changes we have announced will ensure that this scheme is extended equally to people with hidden disabilities so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.”
From next year the criteria will extend eligibility for the scheme to people who cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism), cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress or who have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking).
Sarah Newton, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said: “It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another. We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.”
Our view is that those who will benefit from the changes would obviously like to see them introduced as soon as possible, but we wholeheartedly welcome a move which helps people with hidden impairments and which will also raise awareness of their conditions.
There will always be people who abuse the system by parking in ridiculous places or by using a badge to which they are not entitled, and there will be those non-disabled motorists who resent the scheme. But none of those are reasons to resist the extension of a scheme which is a great help for disabled drivers and passengers, and if stronger enforcement is needed to beat the cheats then we support it.

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