This report sets out findings from mixed methodology research exploring the views of Blue Badge holders. The research comprised a large scale telephone survey of 812 Blue Badge holders and nine focus groups. Transport Scotland commissioned ODS Consulting, working in partnership with Research Resource to undertake the research. The work took place between March and August 2012. The research findings will help to inform the Blue Badge scheme to be improved and developed.
The UK Blue Badge scheme was set up in the 1970's (originally as the Orange Badge scheme). It operates across the UK, providing parking concessions for on-street parking for disabled people - travelling either as drivers or passengers. It allows Badge holders in Scotland to park without charge or time limit in the on-street parking environment; including single and double yellow lines (unless a loading ban is in place).
The scope of the Blue Badge Scheme has expanded beyond the provisions of the original Act of Parliament regarding on-street car parking concessions and has been adopted by some operators of off-street car parks (in supermarkets, hospitals and other places) as a way of meeting their obligations to disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act, 2010. Many of the comments in this report relate to the use of off-street disabled parking.
The Blue Badge scheme is managed by local authorities. Badges may be issued without assessment by the local authority if the applicant:
- receives the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (HRMC DLA); or
- receives the War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement; or
- has received a lump sum benefit under article 15(1)(a) of the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) Order 2011 tariff levels 1-8 (inclusive); or
- is registered blind or holds a Certificate of Vision Impairment signed by a Consultant Ophthalmologist.
Badges may be issued following assessment by the local authority if the applicant:
- regularly drives a vehicle and has a severe disability in both arms and is unable to operate, or has considerable difficulty in operating, all or some types of parking meter; or
- has a permanent and substantial disability which causes the person to be unable to walk, or virtually unable to walk; or
- is unable to walk or virtually unable to walk by reason of a temporary but substantial disability which is likely to last for a period of at least 12 months beginning with the date on which the badge is issued; or
- is a child under three who requires to be accompanied by bulky medical equipment or kept near a motor vehicle so that they can be treated for their condition.
We sought to undertake a telephone survey of 800 Blue Badge holders from across Scotland. Currently there is no national database of Blue Badge holders and we therefore identified Badge holders from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS). This national survey, undertaken annually, asks whether the householder or someone else in the household is a Blue Badge holder. We identified 1,623 individuals to contact, and from these successfully interviewed 812, demonstrating a response rate of 50%.
We undertook nine focus groups, consulting with 67 participants in total. The focus groups were designed to supplement the information gathered in the telephone interviews in terms of:
- current use of the Blue Badge;
- views on the administration and management of the Blue Badge scheme;
- misuse of Blue Badges;
- links with other transport provision; and
- future use of the Blue Badge.
Participants were recruited for four of the groups from people who participated in the telephone interviews (and indicated a wish to take part). Participants in the five remaining groups were chosen to reflect groups of people who were unlikely to be represented in the geographically based groups. They included a group of:
- Blue Badge holders living in a rural area;
- Blue Badge holders living in one of the 15% most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland;
- Blue Badge holders from an ethnic minority background; and parents of children with disabilities who are Blue Badge holders.
- Respondents used their Blue Badge mostly for shopping and medical appointments. Focus group participants spoke mostly of parking in off-street disabled person's parking bays, such as supermarket car parks, hospital car parks or shopping malls. Where on-street parking was used, it tended to be single yellow lines.
- There was consensus that there was a general lack of Blue Badge parking space provision. This was most noticeable in hospital car parks as well as with on-street provision in town centres.
- Telephone respondents indicated that the value of the Badge was that they could park closer to their destination and take benefit from the wider parking bays. While these were also mentioned as benefits by the focus group participants; for them, the greatest value of the Badge was securing their independence and ability to 'get out and about' allowing a certain quality of life.
- Without the Blue Badge, most people agreed that they would go out less often. Some went so far as to say they would be 'housebound' without their Blue Badge and for one participant it allowed her to continue working. Parents said that they would be especially put off from travelling with children without their Badges.
- The vast majority felt that they had a good understanding of the rules and restrictions of using their Blue Badge. However some debated the rules on where the badge allowed you to park. For example, there were contradictory views as to whether parking on a double yellow line was allowed.
- Misuse of the Blue Badge scheme was perceived as a significant issue; particularly the use of spaces by people without a Badge
Suggestions for improvements
During the course of conducting the qualitative research, participants offered suggestions as to how they thought the Blue Badge scheme should operate. These are as follows:
Photograph: A number of participants suggested that the photograph that appears on the Blue Badge should be displayed while parking. Currently the photograph on the Badge is not displayed as Blue Badge holders must display the expiry date on their Badge. Participants suggested that if the photograph were to be displayed; this would cut down on fraudulent use of the Badge. However, some participants did not agree with this suggestion, claiming that displaying the photograph could alert others to a 'vulnerable' person or infringe the Blue Badge holder's right to privacy.
Cost of the Blue Badge: The cost of the Blue Badge varies by local authority. Each authority decides the charge for the Badge; which varied from being free to £20 for use for three years. Participants at the groups indicated that the charge of £20 still demonstrated value for money, when compared to the cost of parking charges. However, there was concern at the discrepancy between authorities. Some participants called for a universal cost to be set so that no one was paying more for the Badge than others.
Clearer rules and regulations: Some participants commented that their own knowledge of the Blue Badge scheme was good - but traffic wardens and the police did not understand the rules of where parking was allowed. Several participants had received parking tickets - despite parking within the rules of the scheme (on yellow lines or without parking tickets, but displaying the Blue Badge).
Disability awareness training: Participants called for more training for police and traffic wardens. Similarly, participants spoke of their negative experiences on public transport where bus drivers were not perceptive to the needs of the disabled person. Two participants spoke of having fallen over on the bus as it moved off before they were seated - despite having asked the driver to wait. Disability training for bus drivers was suggested.
Penalties for misuse: Participants discussed their perceptions of misuse of the Badge, which they agreed was a problem. This was more so the misuse of disabled parking spaces by people without a Blue Badge, than misuse of the Badge itself - although some participants believed that the fraudulent use of Badges was also an issue. Stricter penalties were thought to be necessary including clamping, towing of vehicles or points on the offender's driving licence.
More effective enforcement of the Scheme: Participants believed that the Blue Badge scheme could be better enforced - through more training for traffic wardens. There should be more enforcement officers in private off-street car parks such as supermarkets and shopping centres where it was perceived there was little monitoring of Blue Badge spaces. As a result, this was where most of the misuse was occurring.