How disabled people like me suffer due to blue badge abuse

I am a carer of two disabled relatives and I know the frustration of blue-badge abuse, even taxis wait in the disabled bays at my local supermarket.

How disabled people like me suffer due to blue badge abuse and underfunded local authorities
Four years, one wheelchair and multiple colourful walking sticks since my diagnosis, I still haven’t worked out how to ‘look disabled’

A few months ago, a friend sent me a car sticker. Not a standard gift for your average 31-year-old girl-about-town, but it gave me a much needed laugh: “My Doctor Knows Why I Need a Disabled Parking Permit. You Don’t Need To.”

Four years, one wheelchair and multiple colourful walking sticks since my diagnosis with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and I still haven’t worked out how to “look disabled”. Spontaneously dislocating joints, I have nailed. Juggling pain medications, fatigue and a career, I’m getting my head around.

Sadly, being a younger woman who can generally stand up out of her car (albeit with a propensity to fall over afterwards), I often get “The Look” – a sideways glance, raised eyebrow, and vaguely appalled shake of the head. Sometimes, it’s accompanied by “The Tut”, “The Mutter” or “The Strangely Aggressive Comment to No One In Particular About Benefit Scroungers”.

People understandably get very frustrated by those who “fake” disability. Figures released from the Department of Transport have shown that there are very few prosecutions of people “misusing” blue badges. These are badges being used by those without disabilities, often stolen, borrowed off a relative, or most grotesque of all, used after the person who needed it has died.

Councils failing to tackle blue badge abuse as number of thefts soars

Only 59 per cent of local authorities have a policy of prosecuting people who misuse badges, and only 65 per cent of those had actually prosecuted anyone. Today, this has led to my Twitter feed filling up with people with less visible disabilities telling their stories of strangers yelling at them in car parks, demanding to know if they really need that badge.

I know, that on the whole, these strangers think they are helping the “real” disabled people – but we don’t want or need that kind of support.

I need blue badge spaces so I can be independent, and not just to save me a walk (though that’s reason enough). Those spaces are wider, so I can park the large car I need to transport my wheelchair, and open the doors without slamming them into others. But go to pretty much any large shopping centre or supermarket, and you will find people with no badges at all, parked in the disabled places – and these are rarely tackled either.

I actually feel bad for local authorities, because their funding is minimal, they are relying on low numbers of civil enforcement officers to police this, and have to find the money to not only catch the perpetrators (which, given that disabled people look JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, is challenging), but then prosecute them. That is money which could be spent on countless other (arguably more useful) things.

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The blue badge system has seen multiple piecemeal changes from government over the years, and next year, a number of other conditions will become eligible for the permits. However, there doesn’t seem to be any additional funding for these changes. The most local authorities can do is ensure badges need to be renewed every three years – and as a disabled person, I do love a bit of additional paperwork.

These renewals can require expensive reassessments. My lifelong, degenerative, incurable condition apparently may have been cured in my move from London to Leeds this year, so I require reassessment (because I don’t yet claim a personal independence payment, or PIP).

I do not need my medical degree to see the colossal waste of taxpayers’ money this has caused. In effect, the onus is put on the disabled person to renew, due to the dishonesty of others.

Do we need to stop people using badges inappropriately? Yes. Is getting angry at individual local authorities going to achieve this? Probably not.

We need a wholesale redesign of this system at government level, with service users like me involved from the word go – not just as part of a tokenistic “consultation” afterwards. Local authorities need funding. They also need a system they can effectively monitor and which doesn’t just pass the pressure onto service users to juggle more paperwork and assessments.

I haven’t put those car stickers on Eric the Vauxhall Astra yet – but I may soon have to. As for the blue badge: if you want it, you can have it ­– but only if you take my disability too.


One thought on “How disabled people like me suffer due to blue badge abuse

  1. Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    I agree with everything you say.

    Yes, the Blue Badge systems needs reviewing and it would be ideal for Blue Badge users to be part of the revision system and not on a tokenistic basis, but on a co-design basis.

    Co-production would be even better.

    Yes. local authorities need more money for an abundance of projects and not be subjected to yearly swinging cuts, blamed on austerity, the cut reason for cuts, but over the years there have been many other reasons.

    Any Governments past and present have been, over the years passing on more responsibilities to local authorities, but never with sufficient funding being given and in many instances no additional funding at all.. Local authorities are up aganst it each and every year with regards to finance and vurtually every Government has never provided sufficient funding to allow local authorities to provide good quality services. Then those same Governments blame the same local authorities for not providing the said quality services.

    When will they ever work together, but then when will local authorities ever, effectively work with their own population.

    I volunteer my own time to many projects, be they local authority, local health authorities, including CCG and numerous voluntary and charitiy sector organisaions.

    Virtually without question more respect and working together is achieved through the voluntary and charity sector organisation than any health and local Government authorities. It is as though health and local Government are just going through the motions, ‘ticking a box’ for lay person involvement.

    It is a great shame for the persons using the variety of services are the experts and not the governing authorites, but they beg to differ, unforunately for, not only their oqn loss, but for all the persons using those respective services.

    I do get very disheartened, but have the mindset that the next time will be different, but it never is, but to not be involved you could miss the once in a life time opportunity when it may be.


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