Social Research - The Use and Value of the Blue Badge Scheme
3. Current Use of the Blue Badge
3.1 Both the telephone survey and the groups opened with a short session exploring participant use of the Blue Badge. This allowed us to gather important and relevant information, while easing participants into the research with some relatively simple, broad questions. This section sets out our findings from the research on these issues.
Length of time with a Blue Badge
3.2 The telephone survey identified that 24% have had their Blue Badge for less than three years, 29% between four and six years, 24% between seven and 10 years and 21% for longer than 11 years. The remaining two per cent of respondents were unsure.
Figure 3.1: Length of time with a Blue Badge
3.3 The focus groups also revealed a similar spread of people including those who were new to the Blue Badge scheme, having had their Badge for only a matter of months; and those who had held a Blue Badge for over 20 years.
3.4 The focus groups identified four participants who had held their Blue Badge for one year, or less, and nine participants who had had a Blue Badge for over 20 years; the longest being 26 years.
'I've had a Blue Badge since they were first introduced as Orange Badges.'
(Both driver and passenger, female, 55-64, area of deprivation)
How people initially found out about the Blue Badge Scheme
3.5 GPs were the most common way for people to find out about the Blue Badge. The telephone survey responses indicate that 50% of those interviewed said this was how they had found out about the Blue Badge scheme. The vast majority of focus group respondents agreed; stating that they had been recommended to the Scheme by their doctor.
'My GP told me I would be better off with a Badge after my heart attack.'
(Both driver and passenger, male, 65-74, small town)
3.6 One parent commented that she had first heard of the Scheme from another parent of a disabled child, while others had found out about the Scheme through their Occupational Therapist or through Social Work.
'My Occupational Therapist told me about it - she thought I could benefit from the Badge because of my wheelchair.'
(Passenger, female, 45-54, small town)
3.7 All of the participants from the ethnic minority focus group said that their GP had alerted them to the Scheme. This group felt that the Scheme was well advertised and that people were aware of it.
3.8 Focus group participants discussed the application process. Views were that the ease of the application process was dependent on the individual's circumstances. For example, participants commented that if you were applying for a Blue Badge while in receipt of the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component (HRMC) of Disability Living Allowance (DLA); then the form was simple and could be completed easily. However, if you were not receiving HRMC DLA the application required evidence of the applicant's current medication and a reference from a GP. This was thought to be a long and arduous process.
'There were sixteen pages to complete as part of the application process.....it was like the Spanish Inquisition.'
(Driver, female, 75-84, area of deprivation)
3.9 The focus groups revealed that four participants in total had received help completing their application form. This included assistance from Social Work, Citizen's Advice Direct, the Advice Works and a club for people with visual impairments.
3.10 Participants from the ethnic minority focus group discussed whether there was a need for the application form to be available in languages other than English. The participants felt that this would only be beneficial if the form could also be completed and processed in a language other than English.
'If the form is available in other languages.... it doesn't matter because you have to fill it out in English. If it was in the Punjabi language and (local authority) could read it and process it, then that would be beneficial.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, ethnic minority focus group, urban area).
3.11 Currently the Blue Badge is valid for up to three years. The vast majority of focus group participants had held a Blue Badge long enough to have been through a re-application process. There were mixed views about whether this was a simple process. Some described the process as 'tedious', and other views ranged from 'easy' to 'quite difficult' - again, dependent on their level of DLA, if any.
3.12 There were two examples of parents whose children held a Blue Badge, but who had had this withdrawn by the local authority because of a change in their eligibility for HRMC DLA, meaning they no longer qualified. One of these parents was actively appealing the decision; while the other had decided not to renew it, because he felt it placed too much pressure on his GP.
'I felt like I was constantly asking my GP to do me favours and write letters of recommendations.'
(Parent, male, area of deprivation)
3.13 Another parent had experienced difficulties supplying a suitable photograph of her child for use on the Badge. As her child is in a wheelchair, this parent found it difficult to provide a standard 'passport' style photograph as it was 'impossible' to get their child into the photo booth. She had tried to use existing photographs of her child - cut to size, but these were rejected and as a result, this parent had not renewed her Blue Badge. Other parents had experienced similar problems where photos were rejected because the child was smiling, or could be seen being 'propped up' in the photograph. It should be noted that the Blue Badge application form requires a "passport sized" photograph, and not necessarily a "passport style" photograph. Local authorities should accept any photograph as long as it is of a standard size. Our research has shown that some parents (and perhaps local authorities) have misunderstood the requirement of the application.
'I had to prop her up in the photo booth and had my arm round her waist to keep her upright, but they (photos) were sent back because they were not regulation.'
(Parent, female, 45-54, small town)
Reasons for being issued with a Blue Badge
3.14 The telephone survey collected information about the reasons why the Blue Badge had been issued. Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) indicated that this was because of their difficulty walking; the criteria under which a Badge is issued. However other conditions such as arthritis (23%) and heart problems (20%) were also mentioned as the perceived reasons for having a Blue Badge.
|Q3 What is the reason you/ the Badge holder have been issued with a Blue Badge?|
|Unweighted base: n=812||%|
|Difficult/ impossible to walk||69|
|Heart problem/ stroke||20|
|Asthma, breathing difficulties||14|
|Learning difficulty/ behavioural problem/ Autism||1|
|Accompanied by medical equipment||<1|
|Brain issues (i.e. surgery)||<1|
|Disable - refused to give further details||<1|
|Prefer not to say||<1|
How the Blue Badge is used
3.15 Telephone survey respondents and focus group participants were asked whether they used their Blue Badge mostly as the driver, the passenger or a combination of both. Our analysis found that almost half of the telephone respondents (48%) said that they used the Badge as a passenger, with just over a third (35%) being the driver.
3.16 Focus group participants tended to be the driver with the Blue Badge. Two- thirds of participants (67%, 45 participants) said they were usually the driver, compared to 19% (13 participants) who were always the passenger. Nine participants (13%) could be either the driver or passenger.
3.17 Some of the focus group participants who used a wheelchair stated that they were always the passenger. They relied on friends or family to use their own cars to drive. One participant with visual impairments said that she had a designated carer who was also her driver.
3.18 However, many people said that they always took their Badge with them if they were a passenger in another car. This sparked some debate as recipients of the new Blue Badge spoke of being asked to specify three vehicles in which they might travel. Their understanding was that if the Blue Badge was used in a vehicle other than the three specifically registered against the Blue Badge, then the Badge would not be valid. The Blue Badge application form does allow applicants to specify vehicles in which the Badge will be used - but this is not compulsory.
3.19 Of the 45 participants who identified themselves as the driver with the Blue Badge; 17 were either a parent or carer of the Blue Badge holder. These participants were always the driver for the Blue Badge holder.
3.20 Nine focus group participants commented that they could be either the driver or the passenger. Some of these participants had partners who were also Blue Badge holders and as such took turns to be driver or passenger.
Reasons for travel
3.21 Our analysis found that 91% used their Blue Badge for shopping and two-thirds (68%) used their Blue Badge for medical appointments. These were also the most commonly mentioned reasons for travel in the focus groups. The small numbers of respondents undertaking work and education reflects the age profile of Blue Badge holders who tend to be older and therefore not in work or education.
Figure 3.2: Reasons for travel when using the Blue Badge
Where parking when using the Blue Badge
3.22 The telephone survey found that those who used their Blue Badge for education, work and shopping were more likely to park in off-street disabled parking bays than other parking locations. And those who used their Blue Badge for leisure or medical appointments were more likely to use on-street disabled parking bays.
|Q10 Where do you park using your Blue Badge when travelling for...?|
|Base||Yellow lines (single or double)||On street parking metered bays||On street disabled persons' parking bays||On street parking||Off street disabled persons' parking bays||Off street not in disabled parking bay||Other|
3.23 Focus group participants spoke mostly of parking in off-street disabled 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 although some participants would park on a double yellow line if it was safe.
Main travel times
3.24 The telephone survey asked respondents whether they were likely to travel during the week or at the weekend for the reasons identified in the previous question. This showed that the majority of respondents who used their Blue Badge for education or work did so during the week. On the other hand, when travelling for leisure, shopping purposes and medical appointments the majority of respondents said they did not travel on a specific day for these reasons for travel.
|Q8 When do you mainly travel? Is this mainly during or on a weekday, or weekends?|
|Base||% Weekdays||% Weekends||% No usual day of travel|
3.25 Some of the parents of children with Blue Badges commented that their children were collected to and from school by a specially adapted bus, and therefore they tended to only use the Badge afterschool or at weekends when taking the children to activities.
3.26 An observation was made at two discussion groups both in urban areas, that it became more difficult to park on the street on a Sunday when restrictions for parking on single yellow lines were relaxed.
3.27 The research then went on to explore whether there was a particular time of day when Blue Badge holders tended to travel. From the telephone survey, the majority of those who used their Blue Badge for travelling to work said they travelled in the early morning (60%). However for leisure, shopping and medical appointments the majority said the time of day varied. Those who used their Blue Badge for education tended to travel between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
|Q9 And is there a particular time of day or times of day when you normally travel for...?|
|Base||Early morning (7am-9am)||Late morning (9am -12noon)||Early afternoon (12noon - 3pm)||Late afternoon (3pm - 5pm)||Early evening (5pm - 7pm)||Evenings after 7pm||No main time of travel/ varies|
3.28 Focus group participants agreed that there was no consistent time of the day for using their Blue Badges. Two participants used the Blue Badge daily to park at work, while another used the Badge to drop her children off at school. These drivers were travelling in the early morning and again in the afternoon or evening.
3.29 Two groups of participants commented on the volunteering work they undertake which requires them to use the Badge in the evenings. Others used the Badge in the evenings for special occasions or for trips to the theatre, or cinema.
'Sometimes I'd use it at night if there was somewhere special to go.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, ethnic minority focus group, urban)
Frequency of using the Blue Badge
3.30 The telephone survey found that those who used their Blue Badge for education were most likely to use their Badge between four and seven times per week (59%). On the other hand, those who used their Blue Badge for work, leisure and shopping were most likely to use their Badge two or three times per week (45%, 39%, and 48%, respectively). Those who used their Badge for medical appointments did so less frequently (less than once per week, 57%).
|Q11 On average how many times do you use the Blue Badge in a week when travelling for...?|
|Base||Less than once per week||Once||2-3 times||4-7 times||More than 7 times|
3.31 The focus group discussions touched on how often Blue Badge holders were using their Badge. Not everyone used their Blue Badge on a daily basis. Some used it only a few times a week - most notably to attend hospital or other medical appointments.
'I go to a clinic three times a week for about three hours at a time.'
(Carer, male, 55-64, urban)
3.32 Some participants however claimed to be using the Badge in some capacity every day.
'I never have it (the Blue Badge) off my windscreen.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, small town)
'For me, it's 24/7.'
(Driver, male, 45-54, small town)
Length of time parking using the Blue Badge
3.33 Our analysis found that the length of time parked using the Blue Badge varied according to the reason for travel.
3.34 Survey respondents and focus group participants who were working could be using their Badge to park for up to seven hours at a time. In the focus groups, this included both a private office car park, but another was on-street.
3.35 The telephone survey found that respondents who used their Badge for shopping or for medical appointments were most likely to park for between 30 and 60 minutes. Focus group participants undertaking these activities indicated they would park for longer - typically between one and two hours.
3.36 Some focus group participants who had received their Blue Badge recently had a timer issued with their Badge. This was to restrict their parking in certain locations to three hours maximum. Currently these time restrictions are only applicable in England. The timers prompted discussions in four of the groups about whether there should be time restricted parking for disabled people. Some felt the restrictions were unnecessary, while others were not fazed by having a time limit on their parking and felt that three hours was enough time to undertake most tasks.
'Why should there be time restrictions? If you want to shop, or meet a friend for lunch....it's going to force people to restrict what they do.'
(Carer, female, 55-64, small town)
'It depends on the mobility of the individual as to whether the time limit is restrictive.'
(Carer, male, 75-84, small town)
Distance travelled with the Blue Badge
3.37 Focus group participants commented on using their Blue Badges to travel further afield. England was mentioned as a destination, as was mainland Europe and two parents stated they had used the Blue Badge in America. The majority of participants however had used the Badge in Scotland, and predominantly in their local area.
Lack of Blue Badge spaces
3.38 There was a consensus generally among focus group participants that there are not enough Blue Badge spaces available. This was most notable in private car parks. Specifically mentioned were that some hospitals had a lack of disabled parking spaces.
'[Hospital] does have a shortage of spaces.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)
'Disabled parking at the hospital is insufficient and too far away from the entrance.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, urban)
3.39 There were two examples from participants in different groups who had telephoned the hospital from the car park to cancel their appointments as they were unable to find a disabled parking space. Others spoke of their frequent frustrations at being late for hospital appointments because of difficulties finding a suitable disabled parking bay.
3.40 There were several examples from different locations, where the disabled passenger had to be 'dropped off' at the destination while the driver then went to look for a regular parking place because of a lack of spaces.
3.41 The parents spoke of often having to drop off their children at hospitals while they found a parking space. They did not always feel comfortable doing this.
'I've had to drop her off and leave her with the receptionist at the hospital while I find a space. It's not too bad now that she's older, but when she was young; it was a nightmare.'
(Parent, female, 35-44, urban)
3.42 In supermarkets, some participants mentioned that if they found there were no Blue Badge spaces available; they would park in a 'parent and child' space as they were perceived to be of a similar width to a disabled parking space. This allowed more room to manoeuvre in and out of the car.
'If there are no Blue Badge spaces left, then I use the parent and child spaces because they are often closer to the door and just as wide.'
(Passenger, female, 65-74, rural)
3.43 Others had examples of going out for the day, and not being able to find a disabled parking space and having to return home without getting out of the car.
'We went to St Andrew's for the day, but we drove round and round and eventually gave up and came home again. We never got out of the car.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)
3.44 The research included people who were new to the Blue Badge scheme; having their Badges only a matter of months, as well as those who had held a Blue Badge for over 20 years.
3.45 GPs were the most common way of finding out about the Blue Badge scheme. The ease of applying to the Scheme varied depending on whether the applicant was in receipt of the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of DLA (HRMCDLA). Where this was the case, the form was easy to complete; but without this HRMCDLA component, the application form required evidence of the applicant's disability.
3.46 Our analysis found that almost half of the respondents (48%) said that they used the Badge as a passenger, with just over a third (35%) being the driver. However, focus group participants tended to be the driver, rather than the passenger (67% and 13% respectively).
3.47 Telephone survey analysis found that 91% of people used their Blue Badge for shopping and two-thirds (68%) for medical appointments. These were also the most commonly mentioned reasons for travel in the focus groups.
3.48 Focus group participants spoke mostly of parking in off street disabled 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 although some participants would park on a double yellow line if it was safe.
3.49 There was no consistent time of day or day of the week when Blue Badge holders used their Badges - it was dependent on the reason for their journey. Some commented that using the Badge was more difficult at weekends due to the reduced parking restrictions on single yellow lines and the increased volume of traffic.
3.50 There was consensus among both telephone and focus group participants that there was a general lack of Blue Badge parking space provision. This was most noticeable in hospital car parks as well as on-street provision in town centres.