Department for Transport Archives - Driving Mobility

Thousands with hidden disabilities benefit from extended Blue Badge scheme

New figures show 12,299 people awarded Blue Badge under new criteria

blue badge scheme
  • New figures show 12,299 people awarded Blue Badge under new criteria
  • Since August 2019, people with non-visible conditions such as dementia, epilepsy or Parkinson’s are eligible
  • Changes to Blue Badge scheme continue the UK’s world-leading plans to make the transport network more accessible
Thousands of people with Parkinson’s, dementia, epilepsy and other “invisible” disabilities have gained access to the benefits from Blue Badges under new rules introduced last summer.

In the first three months, new figures show, 12,299 new badges – around 130 a day – were granted to people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm, as well as to people with a non-visible disability.

The new rules, introduced by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in August, widened the eligibility criteria to ensure that people with “invisible” disabilities are not disadvantaged. The badges help people access shops and services, by enabling them to park closer to their destinations.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“People with hidden conditions like these have to fight not just their disability, but the psychological worry that others may not recognise them as disabled.
“I’m proud that our reform is already changing thousands of people’s lives, allowing those in need to carry on their daily lives with more confidence and helping combat loneliness and isolation.”

Ahead of the change, the DfT issued new guidance to councils in England on Blue Badge parking permit eligibility, and launched in August a new online eligibility checker to make the scheme clearer for people before they apply.

While the new criteria gives clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-visible disabilities will qualify for a badge.

Local authorities decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, as is currently the case.

The Blue Badge scheme had already meant 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.

Keith Richards, chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), said:

“DPTAC has worked hard to bring the issue of non-visible disabilities to the fore. Enabling those with non-visible disabilities to benefit from a Blue badge will bring a critical improvement in the lives of many disabled people and it is right that the criteria was changed.

“We have stressed the importance of enforcement of the scheme and we are pleased to see the number of prosecutions increasing.”

Abuse of the scheme on-street is something that local authorities have been cracking down on and the Department has given them the powers to seize badges on-street when they are being misused.

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.

Latest statistics from DfT show prosecutions for blue badge misuse in England have risen 17.9 per cent in 2018/19, with almost all of these being instances where someone used another person’s badge – typically family members or carers.

Samantha Tomlin, whose son Henry has autism and has a new Blue Badge, said:

“The key thing with the Blue Badge is that is has increased safety and reduced anxiety for the child and their carer.

“For a parent or carer of someone with ASD, some of the most challenging times are the most mundane for others. A child with sensory difficulties can be triggered by a car horn or lights – and even road awareness can also be an issue – so going to a new location can be very stressful.

“When my son was younger sometimes I didn’t go out because I just couldn’t face trying to find a safe place to park near the shop or doctors.

“Having the Blue Badge just makes you feel slightly less anxious about the situation and feel your child is safer.

“It will make a huge difference to parents going through the early years and those with older children and adults that suffer with all the challenges autism brings.”

Councils may need to review on street parking provision to increase the number of spaces, both in terms of the availability of disabled parking, and the overall number of parking spaces if disabled spaces take up other existing parking spaces.

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 to local authorities in England in the first year of the programme.

 

Audio and visual funding for buses will make journeys accessible for all

Buses around Great Britain will become more accessible for disabled passengers thanks to a new partnership with the Real Time Information Group (RTIG), announced on Tuesday, October 29.

  • £2million to provide audio and visual equipment for buses to improve journeys for everyone including those with visual or hearing impairment
  • DfT launches new communications campaign ‘It’s everyone’s journey’ to improve disabled people’s experiences on public transport
  • Call for partners to sign up to the campaign and join partners already supporting it including British Airways, LNER and Alzheimer’s Society

Buses around Great Britain will become more accessible for disabled passengers thanks to a new partnership with the Real Time Information Group (RTIG), announced today (Tuesday, October 29).

The group, which supports good practice in the use of communications technology on public transport, will work with the Department for Transport to allocate £2million of funding to small bus operators for audible and visible on-board information.

With around 50 per cent of public transport journeys made on buses, this funding will help to ensure that passengers can board more buses with greater confidence, knowing where they are and when to get off.

It coincides with the launch of the ‘It’s everyone’s journey’ campaign, the first stage of a new Government-backed initiative to highlight the part we can all play in improving disabled people’s experiences when using public transport.

The department is now calling on charities, transport operators, and commercial organisations to join the campaign, helping to raise awareness of the needs of disabled travellers and share some of the improvements being made to make travel easier for the one in five disabled people in the UK.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“It is unacceptable that people still feel they cannot travel by bus, because of a lack of basic route and destination information on board local bus services. 

“This partnership is the next step in ensuring that passengers have the information they need to travel confidently on local bus services throughout Great Britain.

“However, we know there is more to do which is why I’m delighted we’re also launching our It’s everyone’s journey campaign today and I invite as many partners as possible to join up so that everyone has equal access to public transport.”                                      

Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

“Transport is at the heart of how we live our lives, and I am determined that we remove any barriers faced by disabled people. 

“Every passenger, regardless of where they travel in Great Britain, should be able to do so confident that they have boarded the correct vehicle and are travelling to the right place.

“That’s why it’s fantastic to announce this partnership with the Real Time Information Group today, and I hope this funding will help more buses meet the needs of the people who rely on them every day.”

The fund for the provision of audio and visual information on-board buses was announced as part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy which aims to provide equal access to the transport network by 2030.

Operators of local bus services are likely to be required to have audio and visible information systems in their vehicles, and this funding is intended to help small operators which might find this costly to implement.

With audio visual equipment only available in limited areas, and predominantly provided by larger operators, the department expects this funding to benefit up to 30 small bus operators.

Tim Rivett, General Manager at the Real Time Information Group, said:

“Audio visual information helps reduce barriers to travel and increases confidence in public transport for all passengers, but particularly disabled passengers.

“RTIG is looking forward to working with the Department to help small operators roll out audio visual information and provide the customer benefits more quickly than would otherwise happen.”

In the first phase of ‘It’s everyone’s journey’, the campaign will work with partner organisations to communicate the improvements that are happening at a local and national level to make public transport more accessible and inclusive of disabled people.

It will be followed by a public advertising campaign early in 2020 that will challenge how we all use public transport and encourage everyone to reflect on how common, and often unconscious, behaviours can impact others.

This is another commitment in the Inclusive Transport Strategy and is the next in a series of improvements by the Transport Secretary to create a more accessible transport network, helping disabled people travel safely and with confidence.

A study commissioned by Department for Transport to investigate how access to transport affects the life opportunities and wellbeing of people living in England found that access to public transport has a wide-ranging positive impact on people’s lives.

The research, carried out by NatCen and the University of the West of England, published today along with two other studies, found public transport is important for being able to access services like healthcare, food shops and education.

The Government recently announced a major package of new measures worth £220million, which will invest in new ways to ensure more flexible public transport such as express lanes for buses, to start in the West Midlands.

The long term funding plan for the upcoming long-term bus strategy – a first for the UK – is expected at the 2020 spending review.

Disabled people to benefit from better journeys thanks to service station funding

Journeys will be easier and more comfortable for disabled people with more than a third of motorway service stations set to have Changing Places toilets.

  • Government awards 22 Motorway Service Areas funding for Changing Places toilets
  • Second round of funding, extended to include A-Roads, launched by Department for Transport
  • Next in series of improvements by the Secretary of State for Transport to create a more accessible transport network, helping disabled people travel safely and with confidence

Journeys will be easier and more comfortable for disabled people with more than a third of motorway service stations set to have Changing Places toilets.

The Department for Transport, in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK), has today announced the 22 Motorway Service Areas that have been successful in their bid for a share of Government funding for Changing Places toilets.

A second round of funding is now being launched, this time extended to include A-roads, with operators of service stations on these routes, as well as on motorways, invited to bid.

A quarter of a million people cannot use standard accessible toilets and need access to Changing Places facilities, which have more space and equipment. This includes adult-sized changing benches and hoists, allowing people with conditions like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy to use the bathroom safely and comfortably.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“In a modern country, everyone should be able to travel.

“Despite improvements in some areas, we need our roadside services to be better for the quarter of a million people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.

“This is why we would like to go even further by extending this to the trunk road network. I encourage as many operators as possible to apply for funding, to open up our road network to everyone who wants to use it.”

Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

“I am delighted to be awarding nearly £750,000 to bring Changing Places toilets to 22 more service stations, helping ensure that everyone can use our roads easily and comfortably.

“This is one of the commitments set out in our Inclusive Transport Strategy, an ambitious piece of work to complement the UN’s sustainable development goals – helping make the world more inclusive for disabled people.

“However, we know there is more to do which is why we are working hard on ensuring our wider transport network – not just roads, but railways, buses, aeroplanes and ferries too – is open to all.”

The DfT’s £2m partnership with MDUK was announced last November to bring Changing Places toilets to more motorway service areas.

The fund was launched in April and motorway service area operators submitted their proposals for 50 per cent funding support for specific new Changing Places toilet installations, which are expected to be ready by the early 2020s.

MDUK worked with the DfT to allocate funding which will support each individual operator’s building work and equipment to add Changing Places toilets alongside other accessible facilities within their service stations.

Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, which co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium, said:

“Too many disabled people and their families are excluded from doing things that others take for granted because there are not enough Changing Places. We’re delighted that, thanks to the DfT’s funding, 22 service stations will be installing these facilities.

“This will make it easier for a quarter of a million people to go on holiday, enjoy a day out with friends, or simply visit the shops.

“We won’t stop campaigning until every service station in the country has a Changing Places toilet, and we would encourage businesses who haven’t done so already to apply for funding in the next round of applications.”

The investment is part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy which aims to provide equal access to the transport network by 2030, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier.

Published in 2018, it set out key commitments to improve disabled people’s access across all modes of transport by 2030. Achievements so far include:

  • A commitment to extend the Access for All programme with an additional £300 million, delivering improvements at a further 73 stations between 2019 and 2024.
  • The introduction of the first ever impartial and independent Rail Ombudsman, making sure passengers are heard and that they get a fair deal when train companies fall short.
  • The extension of the Blue Badge eligibility criteria to include people with non-visible disabilities.

The Government announced in May proposals for new, or majorly refurbished, large buildings used by the public to have Changing Places toilets for severely disabled people. This could add the toilets to more than 150 new buildings a year, including shopping centres, supermarkets, cinemas, stadiums and arts venues.

The Changing Places application portal will be open until December.

The 22 successful Motorway Service Area operators are:

Motorway Service Station Motorway County
Moto rugby M6 Warwickshire
Knutsford Services NB M6 Cheshire
Ferrybridge Services M62 West Yorkshire
Reading EB M4 Berkshire
Heston WB M4 Greater London
Hilton Park SB M6 Staffordshire
Strensham North M5 Worcestershire
Tibshelf South M1 Derbyshire
Tibshelf North M1 Derbyshire
Taunton Deane North M5 Somerset
Strensham South M5 Worcestershire
Sedgemoor M5 Somerset
Rownhams South M27 Hampshire
Northampton South M1 Northamptonshire
Northampton North M1 Northamptonshire
Maidstone M20 Kent
Durham A1(M) County Durham
Clacket Lane West M25 Surrey
Chester MSA M56 Cheshire
Gloucester NB M5 Gloucestershire
Tebay SB M6 Cumbria
Birchanger M11 Essex

Driving Mobility launches pilot ‘Hubs’ scheme to support elderly and differently abled persons in improving their community and outdoor mobility.

“This new provision of advice and information delivers multiple benefits for the public, communities, local authorities and the health service.”

accessible transport

Supported by the Department for Transport, Driving Mobility, the charity that accredits a nationwide network of driving assessment centres, has successfully introduced its new ‘Hubs’ pilot scheme to broaden information and guidance regarding accessible travel. 

The launch of new services, across seven regional centres, is in response to HM Government’s ‘A connected society’ strategy which aims to tackle the growing issue of loneliness. Other Government initiatives such as The Department for Transport’s Inclusive Transport Strategy have also provided the catalyst to develop these new transportation information hubs. Complementing existing driving assessment services, these additional resources focus on reducing social isolation through more effective use of accessible transport and greater independent mobility. Each centre aims to deliver a ‘one stop shop’ approach to providing viable options for elderly and disabled non-drivers – ranging from information on accessible public and community transport through to mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

Edward Trewhella, Driving Mobility CEO comments: “The launch of the pilot Hubs scheme is a significant milestone for our charity and its service users. This new provision of advice and information delivers multiple benefits for the public, communities, local authorities and the health service.”

Nusrat Ghani, MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, 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.”

Driving Mobility is regarded as the national voice of assisted driving and independence. This charity oversees twenty individual organisations which offer professional support and driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. Centres operate either as independent charities or within an NHS Trust. Across the UK seven of these centres now offer a more holistic approach to personal mobility information, assessment and advice.

Operating with Approved Driving Instructors, Occupational Therapists and professional transport advisors, the Hubs centres are:

Driving Mobility is also running a similar pilot project in North East London, seeking to establish what is needed in the way of support for encouraging more outdoor mobility and combatting loneliness and social exclusion through guidance as to accessible transport options.

Edward continues: “Social prescription is a key strategy to combat isolation and depression through pro-actively linking elderly and disabled people with their community, family and friends. With greater mobility, people are less likely to need care-related support as lifestyles can be more rewarding and well-being is improved. With easier access to our knowledge, both transport users and operators can reduce risk and accidents with an enhanced travel experience for all. This is hugely significant in relation to reducing monetary pressures on the NHS and social care.”

Each centre has introduced an individualised range of services with a common goal – to provide transport advice, all in one location, for those who no longer use a private car. For example, Wessex DriveAbility based in Southampton, has focused on a digital platform, namely Goingcarfree.com. This website is easy to navigate and has been designed with accessibility in mind. Other centres have different approaches however all have been trained to identify signs of loneliness and how to mitigate social exclusion.

In terms of practical specifics, Driving Mobility hub centres can provide details regarding local bus, train and taxi operators in terms of accessibility, support services, fare concessions and staff assistance. Advice on assisted air travel is a particular speciality at QEF Carshalton through its Tryb4uFly service and assessment in relation to appropriate mobility products is now commonplace. Help with accessible locations and attractions can also be obtained along with awareness of useful local groups, charities and organisations.

Edward concludes: “We have now built upon our core driving assessment services to offer a truly holistic approach so that personal mobility continues after a driving licence is revoked or use of private car becomes unviable. No longer is there a need to search with the potential for confusion or misinterpretation, Driving Mobility Hub centres deliver a singular, concise resource, for greater clarity and ultimately easier accessible travel.”

Image: Helen Dolphin MBE, Chair of a regional Driving Mobility centre and leading accessible travel expert, is a strong advocate of the Hubs pilot project. 

Driving Mobility charity seeks help of NE London elderly and disabled to improve accessible transport services

“Our London Project offers a really important opportunity for elderly and disabled locals living in North East London to make a difference to transport services. We have already gathered vital feedback from locals however we need more.”

Driving Mobility, the nationwide charity which accredits driving assessment centres across the UK and is supported by The Department for Transport, is seeking feedback from North East London residents so accessible travel can be enhanced.

Entitled the ‘London Project‘ this research project is being led by Occupational Therapist Christine Parr on behalf of Driving Mobility. She is currently based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford and is actively engaged with the local community to understand more fully the needs of elderly and disabled people in terms of private car, taxi, bus, train and tube accessibility. Her main role is to compile comments via a quick and simple questionnaire which is hosted at: https://www.drivingmobility.org.uk/london-project/

Christine comments: “Our London Project offers a really important opportunity for elderly and disabled locals living in North East London to make a difference to transport services. We have already gathered vital feedback from locals however we need more. We are looking at a range of factors within our survey which range from existing Blue Badge provision, challenges with certain disabilities through to ideas for new services. Our simple survey is easy to understand and quick to complete. I would encourage all people with an interest in enhancing accessibility in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney to get involved now. This opportunity to have a voice in terms of improving community access will close very soon. The team and I are fully committed to driving change so that independent mobility is possible for all.”

The survey questions what services are currently available and those that are missing in the area. With this information Christine and the team at Driving Mobility can more effectively put forward proposals to strengthen accessible transport provision and reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness in the area. With an ageing population, social exclusion due to restricted mobility or disability is a growing issue with approximately 1.9 million* lonely people across the UK. By completing the short survey, it is the aim of Driving Mobility to use this data to help gain funding for individuals with physical and mental challenges and those who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter. This potential investment will ensure local residents and transient passengers have greater choice in terms of personal mobility in the future.

Driving Mobility is the national charity which accredits driving assessment centres across the UK. These offer professional support and advice to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. In addition to adapted driving, centres provide information and guidance regarding accessible public transport, assisted air travel and alternative solutions for personal mobility.

People with hidden disabilities can access Blue Badges for the first time from today

Extension to Blue Badge scheme comes into force in England today for people who have non-visible disabilities, making travel easier

  • Extension to Blue Badge scheme comes into force in England today for people who have non-visible disabilities, making travel easier
  • New online eligibility check launched to make it simpler for people applying for the badges.
  • Today marks the biggest change to the scheme in nearly 50 years.

People with hidden disabilities, including anxiety disorders or a brain injury, can apply for a Blue Badge for the first time from today (August 30).

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.

In the biggest change to Blue Badges since the 1970s, the DfT has been working with specialists to expand the eligibility criteria for the badges, which now includes people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

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 Government’s ambitious Inclusive Transport Strategy, changes to the Blue Badge scheme and the Access for All programme will continue the UK’s internationally-leading plans for fully-accessible transport.

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.

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 £1.7 million in the first year of the programme.

The expanded scheme coincides with the launch of a review intended to improve enforcement, and help councils tackle fraudulent use of the badges.

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 non-visible disabilities can use the badges with confidence.

A task group will also 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.

Tim Nicholls Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the National Autistic Society said:

“We are delighted to see the new Blue Badge rules come into force. This will be a huge relief for thousands of autistic people and their families in England, many of whom are so anxious about things going wrong that they find it hard to leave the house at all.

“A Blue Badge can be life changing. To live up to this promise, it’s absolutely essential that council officials making decisions about Blue Badges understand autism and the challenges autistic people can face getting out and about.”

While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-visible 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.

Councils may need to review parking provision to increase the number of spaces, both in terms of the availability of disabled parking, and the overall number of parking spaces if disabled spaces take up other existing parking spaces.

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