For millions of people with mobility issues, having a Blue Badge is a godsend that allows more convenient parking and makes life much easier when they travel by car or in a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. But what’s involved in qualifying for these badges? In this article we explore further and point you to the government websites where you can get more information and make your application.
The Blue Badge Scheme is one of the most useful services available to UK motorists. It’s a bargain-priced, wallet-sized magic ticket that helps people with seriously impaired mobility park closer to their destinations on our congested streets. In practice, for many people, qualifying for a Blue Badge makes the difference between being able to live the life they want to live or not. It’s a powerful document.
To quote the GOV.UK website, ‘The Blue Badge Scheme helps you park closer to your destination if you’re disabled’. The Scheme, administered through local councils, has been in operation since 2000. That’s well over 20 years of invaluable parking concessions for people with disabilities.
According to Which?, in 2019 some 2.3 million Blue Badges were held in England alone – equating to 4.1% of the population.
Where you can park your car when you display a Blue Badge permit varies across the country.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a Blue Badge permit holder can park their vehicle for free on single or double yellow lines for a maximum of 3 hours (except where there are restrictions on loading and unloading). In Scotland there is currently no time limit.
People with a disability who have been issued with a Blue Badge can usually also park for free and with no time limit where there are on-street parking meters and in disabled parking bays.
Never assume that you can always park for free just because you qualified for a Blue Badge! Always remember to double check the local signage (because time and other restrictions often apply), the parking rules on Red Routes (especially in busy parts of central London) and try to make sure you don’t park your vehicle in an area that could endanger yourself, pedestrians, or other road users.
So how do you get one of these helpful motoring benefits? The criteria for qualification can be complex and there are many great websites that explain them in more detail. A good example is the Motability Scheme website, with its detailed description of the updates to the Blue Badge scheme and eligibility changes came into force in 2019.
These changes meant that more people with non-visible disabilities qualified for the Badge. Before 2019, receipt of the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (HRMCDLA) automatically entitled a person to a Blue Badge. With the changes, two qualification paths became available:
The Motability article examines in some detail the criteria for qualification with and without further assessment in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, for up-to-date qualifying criteria and to apply for (or renew) Blue Badges, we recommend visiting the government websites for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We’ve listed these and linked to them later in the article.
In essence, qualifying for a Blue Badge in England without further assessment requires that applicants are over two years old and meet one or more of these criteria:
Broadly similar qualifying criteria apply to applicants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in one of these countries, you should refer to the applicable government website for accurate information.
In England, if you don’t receive qualifying benefits you can still apply for a Blue Badge along a ‘with further assessment’ qualification route. This also applies if you’ve lost your DLA in a PIP reassessment or didn’t get the number of points needed. Again, similar assessment criteria apply elsewhere in the UK.
This article can only give an overview of Blue Badge qualification. We therefore recommend a visit to the relevant government website page to get detailed advice on local criteria for qualifying for a Blue Badge.
As of April 2021, the following links apply for the four UK governments:
Having met the required eligibility criteria, you can buy your Blue Badge and start using it. The modest cost will vary depending on your location. In England and Northern Ireland a Blue Badge currently costs £10. In Scotland the cost is £20, while applicants in Wales currently get their badges free of charge! In all cases Blue Badge validity is usually three years, which makes the small fee a great investment for better mobility and quality of life.
Working through qualification for the Blue Badge Scheme can seem onerous. However, please bear in mind that the qualification process is there to make sure Blue Badges are only allocated to recipients who really need their benefit.
Unfortunately, the theft of disabled Blue Badge parking permits is a huge issue in this country. The criminals who steal permits (and people who use a stolen parking permit) are robbing people with a genuine disability of a vital lifeline.
According to a number of reports, Blue Badge theft is a 'soaring crime', with 'callous thieves and unscrupulous fraudsters using them illegally' to avoid paying for a parking space.
Blue Badge theft is not a victimless crime. The prospect of being without a parking permit means someone has to try and park without their Blue Badge and spend time and money organising a replacement (which could take up to 8 weeks to arrive).
A Blue Badge holder that you can lock to the steering wheel of your vehicle is a great way to keep your Blue Badge safe and deter passing thieves.
Having reached the end of the process and bought your badge, always remember to use it in the right places. Make sure to display it correctly (hologram facing outwards) too. And never let it be used improperly – or by anyone who isn’t entitled to its benefits.
A new world of parking freedom and mobility awaits – you can even use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries!