Social Research - The Use and Value of the Blue Badge Scheme

1. Introduction

About This Report

1.1 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.

Research Context

1.2 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).

1.3 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.

1.4 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.

1.5 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 3 who require to be accompanied by bulky medical equipment or kept near a motor vehicle so that they can be treated for their condition.

1.6 Local authorities can also issue Blue Badges to organisations that are responsible for the care and transport of people who fall into the above categories regularly. As at March 2011, there were approximately 270,000 to 280,000 Blue Badges in circulation in Scotland. The vast majority of Blue Badges are issued to individuals, with around 1.5% issued to organisations. Blue Badges can be used across the UK, and in some parts of the European Union. They can be used in slightly different ways in different countries - and there are some differences in entitlements between Scotland, England and Wales.

1.7 The Scottish Government has been exploring how the Blue Badge scheme can be improved and developed since 2009. It set up a Reform Working Group to explore issues such as eligibility criteria, enforcement and administration, and consulted on the group's recommendations during 2010[2]. It has also explored issues around the misuse of the Blue Badge scheme [3], and has analysed the process of applying for a Blue Badge across Scotland.

1.8 Following the 2010 consultation, the Scottish Government has been working closely with the Department for Transport and Welsh Government to reform and modernise the Blue Badge scheme to create a more consistent and unified scheme across the UK. The Blue Badge Improvement Service, a common service improvement project delivered under contract across the UK, was introduced on the 1 January 2012 and now provides an online application form and secure printing and distribution of the new badge from a central point. All Scottish local authorities have signed up to this new service which also provides a central database of all new badges issued with key information on badge holders. This will improve enforcement of the Blue Badge scheme.

1.9 Recent reforms to the Blue Badge scheme have included the new badge design with sophisticated anti-fraud technologies, tightened eligibility criteria and the introduction of mandatory independent mobility assessments as a means of determining the eligibility of applicants, where eligibility is unclear. Independent mobility assessments have replaced assessments by an applicant's own GP and will provide greater consistency of practice across the country.

1.10 There is, however, very little evidence in Scotland about how Blue Badge holders use their Badges and what benefits they get from them. Transport Scotland wished to explore how people in Scotland use their Blue Badges, and what difference it makes to their lives.

Research Aims and Objectives

1.11 The overall aim of the research was to explore Blue Badge holders' views on using their Badge and the value the Badge gives them.

1.12 The specific objectives were to explore:

Blue Badge holders' transport needs

  • Who ought to qualify for a Blue Badge?
  • What should a Blue Badge make possible that is not possible for other road users? (i.e. what should a Blue Badge do?)
  • Are the needs of all Blue Badge holders the same - e.g. rural/urban, children/working age adults/pensioners?

The use of the Blue Badge

  • How it is used (or not used), e.g. as a driver or a passenger?
  • If and how it enhances people's lives?
  • What type of activity it is used for: e.g. education; work; leisure; retail; visiting family & friends; medical appointments etc.?
  • How it fits into disabled people's lives?
  • Experiences of Organisational Blue Badges (as well as their own personal Blue Badge)?

Blue Badge as one element of transport provision for disabled people

  • How does it relate to other aspects of provision e.g. relationship with:
    • National Concessionary Travel Scheme; (Bus)
    • Community use/ Demand Responsive Transport;
    • Ferries concessionary scheme; and
    • Disabled parking.