Lancashire County Council is reminding people that the Blue Badge Scheme will change later this week.
From Friday 30 August, people with hidden disabilities like autism and dementia will be able to apply for a Blue Badge parking permit, under new Department for Transport (DfE) guidance.
The scheme allows people with disabilities affecting their mobility to park closer to their destination, by using disabled bays and areas where parking restrictions may usually be in place. Blue Badges can be used in vehicles where an eligible disabled person is the driver or a passenger.
The government has extended the scheme to make the journeys of drivers or passengers with less visible conditions more accessible.
Under the new guidance, permits will be extended to those with hidden disabilities, including:
• being unable to walk.
• experiencing very considerable difficulty whilst walking during the course of a journey, including considerable psychological distress.
• People who could be at risk of serious harm, or pose a risk of serious harm to another person.
An aim of introducing changes to the scheme is to improve public understanding so people whose disabilities are not visible will be able to use the badges without fear of being challenged unfairly.
The changes follow an 8-week consultation in 2018.
County Councillor Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.
“Extending the Blue Badge scheme is important in ensuring that people with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independently.
“This change is very much welcomed and will particularly be of help to those living with conditions that might not be obvious but which certainly affect their daily lives.
“Those with hidden disabilities or reduced mobility often find that the anticipation of finding a car park space can heighten the stress of a journey.
“I hope that going forward, many more people with less visible problems will be able to do the things lots of us take for granted more easily– whether that’s shopping, going to see the doctor or maintaining relationships with friends and family who provide vital social support.
“It represents an important step in the right direction and is certainly a watershed moment. It is the greatest change to the scheme in 40 years.”
The launch of the changes to the scheme also coincide with a DfT review looking at how councils can tackle fraudulent use of blue badge permits and improve the consistency of council enforcement.
The review will also look at improving public awareness about the eligibility rules for badges – when it can and cannot be used – and how to return a badge when it is no longer needed, such as when the holder dies.
Councillor Buckley added: “I hope that the review being carried out by the DfT will help to crackdown on dishonest use of the scheme.
“These improvements are much welcomed.”
Anyone wanting to apply for a Blue Badge under the new criteria can do so from the 30 August. Applications can be made online.
More information is available at www.lancashire.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-travel/parking/blue-badges