Reviewed by Dean Morgan
If your parent or elder relative struggles to walk long distances, has become wheelchair-bound or has a condition that makes getting out and about a challenge, you may be wondering whether they could be eligible for a Blue Badge, and how to go about getting them one.
The UK’s Blue Badge scheme allows cars used by or for people with disabilities to park closer to their destination, outside of normal parking restrictions. With a Blue Badge, you can park for up to three hours on a single or double yellow line (except if there’s a ban on loading) and you can park free of charge on parking meters and pay-and-display bays (unless otherwise stated). Although the criteria and application process can sometimes be complex, the benefits are clearly immense.
Read on for guidance on how the scheme works, who is eligible and what you need to do to obtain one.
How does the Blue Badge scheme work?
The Blue Badge scheme helps people with mobility and disability challenges to access parking spaces that minimise the walking distance to their destination.
Historically, the scheme was primarily designed for people with obvious physical disabilities, such as those requiring wheelchairs or walking aids.
However, as our definition of disability has evolved, so has the Blue Badge scheme. Today, the scheme also includes people with non-visible conditions, such as people with dementia or other mental health conditions who might become easily disoriented or anxious when navigating unfamiliar places.
The Blue Badge scheme is available across all of the UK. However, certain London boroughs (City of London, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and part of Camden) have their own alternative schemes for residents, due to traffic congestion and the high demand for parking in Central London.
Where can you park with a Blue Badge?
Where you can park on the street with a Blue Badge, and for how long, depends on the area of the UK and local council you are parking in. Blue Badge holders can find out where they can park in specific areas by entering the postcode on the Gov.uk website here.
In general, a Blue Badge offers the following parking privileges:
- Parking on single or double yellow lines for up to 3 hours, provided it’s safe and doesn’t cause an obstruction.
- Parking in on-street disabled bays
Additionally, Blue Badge holders may be eligible for free parking in pay and display and pay by phone bays. However, it’s crucial to be aware that rules and regulations vary depending on the council, and it’s essential to check local signage for restrictions and additional information. Private car parks, such as those at supermarkets or shopping centres, have their own rules so you also have to check the car park signage for restrictions.
Where do you apply for a Blue Badge?
It’s important to ensure that you only apply via the official government website or directly with the local council. There are, unfortunately, scams around that will target vulnerable elder people to use their services with unregulated, copycat Blue Badge websites that have no authority to issue badges. You only need to use the Gov or local council site and the forms are straightforward to fill in.
The website you use to apply will depend on which part of the UK you live in:
- England and Wales: Apply via the GOV.UK website.
- Scotland: Apply via the mygov.scot website.
- Northern Ireland: Apply via nidirect.gov
You can either apply online, over the phone, or by post. You don’t have to pay any charge to apply for a Blue Badge (it’s free). However, if the application is approved then, depending where the applicant lives, there may be a small fee for the badge itself.
People living in Northern Ireland and England have to pay up to £10 for a badge, while in some parts of Scotland you might have to pay up to £20 for a badge. For people living in Wales, the badge is free.
Who is automatically eligible for a Blue Badge?
Your parent or elder relative will automatically qualify for a blue badge if they meet any of the following criteria:
- Receive a higher mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)* recipient with a score of 8 or more for ‘moving around’ activity due to inability to walk beyond 50 metres
- Registered as severely sight-impaired.
- Receive War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement.
- Benefit from Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation) Scheme within tariff levels 1-8 and certified with a substantial walking disability.
- PIP mobility component with 10 points for descriptor E under ‘planning and following journeys’ due to overwhelming psychological distress
*Note: Some PIP scores don’t guarantee automatic eligibility.
Who could potentially be eligible for a Blue Badge?
A person might also qualify if any of the following applies to them:
- Unable to walk or require significant assistance.
- Walking causes pain, breathlessness, or poses danger.
- Suffer from a life-limiting illness and possess an SR1 form.
- Severe disability in both arms, drive regularly, but can’t operate parking metres.
- Have a child under 3 requiring constant medical equipment or emergency treatments.
- At risk around vehicles or traffic.
- Have difficulty planning/following journeys.
- Struggle to control actions or exhibit behavioural issues.
- Experience intense anxiety or fear in open/public spaces.
In these situations, the local council will evaluate their eligibility, based on medical information and other evidence required as standard before starting the assessment, which may take 12 weeks or more. Each local authority however, can add additional layers of assessment, ranging for more comprehensive evidence requests, to in-person assessments. Check your parent’s local authority website for detail on the extent of their process.
How do you apply for a Blue Badge?
The process of applying for a Blue Badge might seem long-winded, but it can be simplified by preparing the correct information and documents ahead of time. It can take up to three months to process the application, so be prepared for this in advance.
Documents required for a Blue Badge application
- Proof of identity: Birth certificate, passport, marriage/divorce certificate, or driving licence.
- Proof of address: Recent council tax bill, letter from a government department, or driving licence.
- Benefits proof: Documentation required varies depending on the benefit but generally includes recent letters detailing the specific entitlement, date, and rating or score.
If applying without automatic benefit entitlement, applicants must also provide details of medications, treatments, letters from healthcare professionals, and supporting documents like prescriptions or diagnosis letters. These will vary and should be presented by a specialist if possible. Specific descriptions of difficulty in walking, navigating or journeying are ideal.
During the online application, scanned or photographed proofs can be uploaded. Pictures of the required documents can be taken and uploaded on mobile devices. You can also submit documents directly to local councils.
Steps involved in the Blue Badge application process
- Start with the right source: Always initiate the Blue Badge application from the official GOV.UK website here (or NI Direct in Northern Ireland).
- Gather medical documents: Before beginning the application, ensure the applicant has all necessary medical documentation at their fingertips. These papers should provide proof of the mobility challenges and will significantly bolster the application.
- Detailing the disability: When the applicant reaches the section that asks about the nature of the disability, be comprehensive. Use clear, straightforward language to explain the condition and its impact in detail, ensuring that the reviewing officer fully understands the challenges faced.
- Emphasise mobility challenges: Make sure to underscore how being unable to park close to destinations can exacerbate the disability. For instance, someone with a respiratory condition like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) might experience undue strain or risk a flare up if forced to walk extended distances.
- Dementia and familiarity: If applying for someone with dementia or a mental health condition, it’s essential to explain the importance of familiar settings, the impact that disorientation can have and how the proximity provided by a Blue Badge can help avoid distress.
- Document verification: Double-check to ensure all the supporting documents provided, such as medication prescriptions, test results and consultation reports, are both current and relevant to the application. Outdated or irrelevant documents can hamper an application’s success.
Getting help with the application
If you are unsure as to whether your parent or elder relative is eligible, or you want help filling out the application form, there are several ways to get guidance and support.
If you are short on time or worried about completing the form incorrectly, you can also pay an expert to complete the form for you. There are several companies and experienced consultants that offer this service for a fee, saving you time and ensuring the form is filled out accurately. Be sure to research and select a reputable one as sadly there are many scams out there and people ready to exploit the vulnerable.
Appealing a rejected application
Receiving a rejection for a Blue Badge application can be disheartening. However, rejections can sometimes be due to technical oversights or misunderstandings rather than ineligibility. If the application is rejected, there are some important actions you should take before giving up.
- Decipher the issue: Begin by carefully reading the rejection letter. Understanding the specific reasons for the denial will guide the next steps.
- Healthcare professional’s recommendation: If the rejection cites insufficient evidence, one of the most effective ways to counter this is by obtaining a detailed letter from a healthcare professional.
- Clarify misunderstandings: It’s possible that the reviewer might have misunderstood certain aspects of the application, or – in rare cases – interpreted the eligibility criteria incorrectly (e.g. requesting that the applicant apply for PIP first before reapplying). When appealing, provide clear explanations and, if possible, real-life examples that demonstrate the challenges faced without the badge. There have been cases where where reviewers have interpreted the eligibility criteria incorrectly.
- Leverage the rejection letter: The rejection letter will typically provide guidelines on how to appeal the decision. Ensure the applicant follows these instructions to the letter. This might involve filling out additional forms, providing further evidence, or attending a face-to-face assessment.
- Stay persistent: Don’t be put off if the first appeal fails. Sometimes, it takes multiple attempts and the provision of additional evidence to secure a badge. And you can also seek support from Citizens Advice or Age UK, and if you use a reputable, specialist consultant they will usually do this for you. Remember, the goal of the process is to ensure those who genuinely need the badge receive it. Staying persistent and committed if your parent needs one will make all the difference.
How to use a Blue Badge and keep it valid
If your parent or elder relative is given a blue badge, it’s important to make sure they use it correctly, follow the rules and keep it valid to enjoy uninterrupted benefits. They should receive a leaflet from their council council explaining how to use their Blue Badge when it arrives.
Displaying the Blue Badge correctly
Whenever the holder uses the Blue Badge parking privileges, ensure the badge is prominently displayed the right way up, on the dashboard or the front windscreen of the car they are travelling in.
The hologram and expiry date should be visible from the outside, facing upwards. This allows traffic wardens to quickly verifying the badge’s authenticity and validity.
Sticking to the rules
The Blue Badge is not a blanket pass for any vehicle the holder is associated with. Its benefits apply only when the badge holder uses the vehicle as a driver or passenger.
Misusing the badge – for instance, if someone else uses it without the holder being present – can result in penalties. Misuse is a criminal offence punishable with a £1000 fine.
Additionally, stolen or counterfeit Blue Badge users can be prosecuted under the Fraud Act 2006, leading to 12 years in prison and unlimited fines.
Renewing a Blue Badge on time
The Blue Badge expires after 3 years. While some local authorities might send out reminders, others don’t, so it’s wise to be proactive, and keep a note of when it expires.
Start the renewal process a couple of months before the expiry date, or risk being left in the lurch as the authorities check the renewal application.
Alerting the council of changes to circumstances
People move houses, change vehicles, or experience changes to their health conditions – both positive and negative. If any detail is linked to the Blue Badge, the individual must inform the issuing local council immediately.
This ensures that the council’s records remain updated, and in scenarios where they need to contact the badge holder, they can do so without any hitches.
If your parent or elder relative has mobility issues or a disability that makes getting around extremely challenging, then a Blue Badge could be life-changing and vastly improve their quality of life (and yours if you’re their designated driver!).
The application process is time-consuming and complex, so it’s crucial to understand the criteria and to complete the application form thoroughly, providing as much relevant detail and supporting documentation as you can.
If given a Blue Badge, ensure you or your elder parent or relative (whoever it is for) understands how to use it and where its benefits start and end. Failure to use the badge properly can result in fines, and councils are proactive about enforcing them to stop fraud and abuse. Misuse of the badge can also result in it being taken away.
- Can individuals with dementia apply for a Blue Badge?
Absolutely. In recent years, the scope of the Blue Badge scheme has been expanded to consider non-visible disabilities.
Individuals with dementia are susceptible to situations that cause overwhelming psychological distress or that pose potential risks when walking or navigating unfamiliar environments.
Individuals can qualify for a Blue Badge if they demonstrate a genuine need, especially in cases where disorientation or distress is a frequent occurrence.
- Can you park anywhere with a Blue Badge?
No. Although a Blue Badge facilitates many parking privileges, it doesn’t mean you can park anywhere you want for as long as you want. Restrictions apply and vary according to where in the UK you are, which council you are parking in, and whether you are parking on the street or in a private car park.
- What conditions make someone eligible for a Blue Badge?
The Blue Badge is not restricted to any specific list of conditions. Instead, eligibility is based on the impact of someone’s condition on their mobility. This includes:
- Physical disabilities where a person cannot walk or experiences extreme difficulty walking.
- Non-visible disabilities which can encompass a range of conditions such as dementia, severe anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions or any other condition that can pose a significant risk in traffic or public environments.
An individual assessment, usually conducted by the local council, will determine the level of mobility impairment and whether a Blue Badge should be issued.
- How long is the wait for a Blue Badge?
Once all required documentation and evidence have been submitted, the local council typically conducts an assessment to determine eligibility.
This process can take upwards of 12 weeks. However, it’s crucial to note that the duration can vary depending on the council, the volume of applications they’re handling, and the complexity of each case. Most councils will have an expected timeframe listed on their website or in any correspondence you receive after submitting an application.
- Do you need to be able to drive to apply for a Blue Badge?
No, you do not need to be able to drive to apply for a Blue Badge. The badge is issued to individuals based on their mobility needs, not their ability to operate a vehicle. This means that a person who cannot drive but has mobility issues can still qualify for and receive a Blue Badge.
The badge can then be used when they are a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, ensuring they get the same accessibility advantages when travelling with others.
- Can someone else use my Blue Badge if they’re driving me?
Yes, the Blue Badge is assigned to the individual, not the vehicle. This means that as long as the badge holder is in the car (either as a driver or passenger) and will benefit from the badge’s use, it can be displayed in any vehicle.
However, misuse of the badge by someone not transporting the holder can lead to penalties and potential confiscation of the badge.
- What happens if my Blue Badge is lost or stolen?
If a Blue Badge is lost or stolen, it’s imperative to report it immediately to the issuing local council.
They will guide you through the replacement process, which may involve a nominal fee. It’s crucial to provide as much information as possible regarding the circumstances of the loss or theft, especially if you believe it was stolen, as misuse can result in unwanted fines or penalties.
PIP (Personal Independence Payment): A benefit for individuals with a long-term health condition or disability. Specific scores on the mobility component of PIP can automatically qualify someone for a Blue Badge.
DLA (Disability Living Allowance): A benefit for those under 16 with mobility or care needs. The higher rate of the mobility component automatically qualifies someone for a Blue Badge.
Mobility assessment: A scoring system determining the level of mobility challenges an individual faces, used in allocating benefits like PIP.
Non-visible (hidden) condition: A condition or disability that is not immediately apparent but impacts an individual’s ability to walk or travel, such as dementia or severe anxiety.