Blue badge scheme Archives - Driving Mobility

£20m fund to benefit disabled rail passengers one year on from the Inclusive Transport Strategy

Disabled rail passengers across the UK are set to benefit from a raft of accessibility improvements with the opening of a £20m government fund today (Monday, 8 July 2019).

£20m fund marks one year on from the Inclusive Transport Strategy

  • Industry invited to nominate train stations across Britain that would benefit from improvements to accessibility. 
  • Department marks one-year since the publication of the Inclusive Transport Strategy.
  • Move follows wider developments to make the transport network more inclusive, such as the extension of the Blue Badge scheme.

Disabled rail passengers across the UK are set to benefit from a raft of accessibility improvements with the opening of a £20m government fund today (Monday, 8 July 2019).

The opening of the fund marks a year since the launch of the Inclusive Transport Strategy, the Government’s flagship accessibility programme.

Key commitments delivered in the last 12 months include the introduction of the first ever impartial independent Rail Ombudsman, to make sure passengers get a fair deal when train companies fall short, and the launch of a £2m fund to bring Changing Places accessible toilets to more motorway service areas.

And last month, guidance was issued to local authorities in England for extending the Blue Badge scheme – the biggest change in 50 years – making it easier for people with non-visible disabilities to travel.

Nusrat Ghani, Accessibility Minister, said:

“While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, access for the fifth of people who identify as disabled can be far from straightforward.

“We want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost, which is why it is fantastic to be opening this fund today.

“I look forward to seeing what ideas the industry has for accessibility improvements as we work towards a more inclusive rail network.”

The £20m fund will be open for applications from stations in need of accessibility improvements, leading to small-scale enhancements such as tactile paving, handrails and Harrington Humps, which increase platform heights. Taken together, these improvements will open up journeys for disabled passengers, allowing them to travel with confidence.

John Welsman, guide dog owner and policy lead at Guide dogs for travel and mobility, said:

“Guide Dogs welcomes the additional funding as independent train travel is a real challenge for people living with sight loss.

“Elements like tactile paving on platform edges and steps, better signage, improved lighting and colour contrast, will make stations easier to negotiate confidently and more safely.

“However train travel is still a very complex environment for people with sight loss and we will continue to work to find solutions so that no one with sight loss is left out of life.”

This follows the announcement in April that 73 stations will benefit from accessible routes to and between every platform, as part of the Government’s £300m Access for All fund.

The Access for All programme was first launched in 2006 and has so far delivered more than 200 accessible routes into stations along with smaller scale improvements at a further 1,500 stations.

Previous projects funded through the programme include the installation of Harrington Humps at 77 stations to help reduce stepping distances from the platform to the train; accessible toilets installed at 18 stations – including a Changing Places toilet at London Paddington – and a new footbridge and four lifts installed at St Neots Station, Cambridgeshire.

The government is also proposing a number of measures to be delivered in partnership with industry to improve the flying experience for disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility as part of its Aviation 2050 Strategy.

The work is all part of the Government’s aspiration that by 2030 all major transport hubs and terminals on both public and private transport networks will meet the needs of disabled people, including toilet and changing facilities, straightforward signage, audio and visual messaging and space to navigate.

https://twitter.com/transportgovuk/status/1148123482867343360

Blue Badge scheme to be extended to people who have less visible disabilities, making journeys more accessible

People with hidden disabilities will soon be able to access Blue Badge parking permits, thanks to the roll out of new guidance today (Saturday, June 15).

Review of Blue Badge fraud, as scheme is extended to those with ‘hidden disabilities’

  • Blue Badge scheme to be extended to people who have less visible disabilities, making journeys more accessible
  • This change to the scheme is the biggest in nearly 50 years with the extended criteria coming into force on 30 August.
  • Review also launched into Blue Badge fraud and ways of reducing misuse.

People with hidden disabilities will soon be able to access Blue Badge parking permits, thanks to the roll out of new guidance today (Saturday, June 15).

Helen Dolphin MBE, Chair of a regional Driving Mobility centre, comments on behalf of the national charity to Sky News

 

For drivers or passengers with dementia, anxiety disorders or reduced mobility, anticipating difficulty travelling, such as trouble finding a parking space, can result in a build-up of stress on top of the stress of the journey itself.

The new guidance, which represents the biggest change to the scheme since the 1970s, 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.

The expanded scheme coincides with the launch of a new task force to toughen up enforcement and help councils tackle fraudulent use of the badges.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“As a society we don’t do enough for people with hidden disabilities.

“I hope this change to Blue Badge guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

At the end of 2018, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of Blue Badges had risen by 45 per cent in 12 months and was up six-fold since 2013.

The review will look at ensuring Blue Badges are used correctly and improving public understanding so that those with hidden disabilities can use the badges with confidence.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson 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 a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.”

To help councils with the expected increase in applications, the department has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7 million in the first year of the programme.

The Department for Transport has been working with specialists to expand the eligibility criteria for the badges, which will now include people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

The Blue Badge scheme already 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.

The extension of these badges to those with less visible conditions was announced last summer following an eight-week consultation on widening the eligibility criteria. It is an important part of the Government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health.

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said:

“The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England – helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted.

“Just leaving the house is incredibly difficult for many autistic people – and involves detailed preparation. Some autistic people have no concept of the dangers of the road while others are so anxious about plans going wrong, like not being able to find a parking space, that they don’t go out at all. Having a Blue Badge will be life-changing and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.”

A task group will be set up with key organisations to gather ideas and evidence on how to improve the consistency of council enforcement to tackle fraud and misuse.

The review will also look at ensuring that there is greater public awareness of which groups are eligible for a badge, when it can and cannot be used, and how to surrender the badge when it is no longer needed, for example if the badge holder dies.

While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-physical disabilities will qualify for a badge. It will be up to the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, as is currently the case.

Last year, the Government set out its plans to improve accessibility across all modes of transport in the Inclusive Transport Strategy which launched on 25 July 2018. The strategy aims to make the UK’s transport network fully inclusive by 2030.