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

4. Value of the Blue Badge


4.1 Participants were asked to discuss the benefits of having a Blue Badge and the difference it has made to their lives. The discussion then focused on what the participants' circumstances would be without the Badge and the impact this could have on them.

The benefits of having a Blue Badge

4.2 Those taking part in the telephone survey were asked about the two most important aspects of having a Blue Badge. Three-quarters of respondents (75%) said that being able to park closer to their destination was the most important 'benefit' of the Badge. The second most important aspect was wider parking bays (36%).

Table 4.1: Most important aspects of having a Blue Badge

Table 4.1: Most important aspects of having a Blue Badge
Q16 What aspects of having a Blue Badge are most important to you?
Unweighted base: n=812 Top Second
No. % No. %
The comfort it allows 15 2 39 5
Park for free/ financial benefits 10 1 17 2
Park closer to my destination 610 75 116 14
Saves time/ convenience 37 5 140 17
Peace of mind 29 4 82 10
Wider parking bay 54 7 290 36
Independence 54 7 124 15
Saves money 1 <1% 2 <1%
Other 4 1 4 1

4.3 Disabled participants in the focus group discussions were most likely to say that independence was the most important aspect of the Blue Badge. They stated that having the Badge allowed them to remain mobile and enabled them to get out of the house.

'The Blue Badge enables me to get out and about more.'
(Driver, female, 65-74, rural)

'The Badge keeps you independent - and for longer.'
(Driver, male, 45-54, small town)

4.4 Linked to the idea of independence was that the Blue Badge helped contribute towards a better quality of life, ensuring that participants were able to get out and about.

'What a difference it makes to get out; to be part of the community and this leads to better health.'
(Driver, female, 75-84, area of deprivation)

4.5 One participant commented that the Badge had helped to restore her confidence after suffering a stroke. She was now able to get out of the house and do things on her own.

'It has given me confidence to go out by myself and to drive again.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, small town)

4.6 Practical considerations of having the Blue Badge were also mentioned by focus group participants and particularly the parents of disabled children who commented that the wider spaces were important to be able to get wheelchairs and other medical equipment out of the car.

'The wide space is tremendous for the wheelchair.'
(Driver, female, 75-84, area of deprivation)

'The extra space of the wider spaces means we are not rushed or stressed and this makes a huge difference.'
(Parent, female, small town)

4.7 The location of the Blue Badge spaces, closer to the final destination was also mentioned as a benefit of having the Badge.

4.8 Others felt a 'peace of mind' knowing that they would (in most cases) be able to find a disabled parking space and therefore the Blue Badge took the stress out of driving.

'You're not stressed because there is a better chance of getting a space.'
(Carer, male, 75-84, small town)

4.9 The majority of focus group participants did not mention any particular financial benefits of the Blue Badge, although it was discussed in two groups. One group stated that the Blue Badge was more convenient than having to pay at a meter. And another group discussed the savings that could be made from not having to pay to park the car as well as the savings from road tax exemption (for those in receipt of certain benefits).

'A couple of times a month into town is all it takes to rack up a cost in parking.'
(Both driver and passenger, male, 65-74, small town)

Value for money

4.10 Focus groups discussed the cost and value for money of the Blue Badge. We found that charges for the Blue Badge varied by local authority area. In our focus group locations, participants indicated that Badges were issued for three years at the following cost:

  • South Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire - the Badge is free
  • West Dunbartonshire - £2.50
  • Edinburgh, Glasgow and Renfrewshire - £20.

4.11 The participants were divided in their views over the payment for a Blue Badge. Some people felt that the Badge should be free; particularly for those on DLA or other benefits.

4.12 Others felt that the one off payment for the Blue Badge demonstrated good value for money considering the potential cost of parking without the Blue Badge.

'For me to park normally; it would cost me more than £20 in three years.'
(Driver, male, 75-84, rural)

'It's better to pay for it than go without.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, rural)

4.13 Two participants (from separate focus group discussions) felt strongly that if there was to be a charge for the Badge that the cost should be the same across all local authorities.

'I think that all councils should charge the same -it's totally unfair that all Badges are a different price.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

'There is nothing wrong with the Blue Badge scheme - it's the best scheme the Government ever thought of but the disparity in costs between local authorities is ridiculous.'
(Driver, male, 45-54, small town)

4.14 The consultation on Blue Badge reform[10] that took place in July 2010 asked about the cost of a Blue Badge. The consultation asked whether people felt it should be mandatory for all local authorities to charge a fee of £20 for every application? Respondents to the consultation opposed this proposal. The most common reason given for opposition was that disabled people could not afford the charge.

4.15 Comments from several of the focus groups indicated that some participants believed the Badge should be a reduced price for those receiving benefits. However, others felt that this type of 'means testing' would create 'another layer of bureaucracy' and if there was to be a charge for the Badge; it should be the same for everyone.

'There should be a set rate and rules for all Blue Badges -it shouldn't be different by authority.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

Circumstances without the Blue Badge

4.16 Telephone respondents were asked the extent to which they agreed with various statements about the Blue Badge scheme. This revealed that:

  • over three-quarters (76%) agreed they would go out less often without a Blue Badge;
  • three-quarters (75%) would pay to park in a convenient parking space; and
  • 72% would have to rely on friends and family to drive them if they did not have a Blue Badge.

Figure 4.1: Circumstances if without a Blue Badge

Figure 4.1: Circumstances if without a Blue Badge

4.17 Focus group participants agreed with the findings from the telephone survey. Several indicated that without their Blue Badge, they would not go out as often; or for some, they would not go out at all.

'I could not go out the house without my Badge -it's amazing.'
(Driver, female, 65-74, rural)

'I would be housebound without it.'
(Passenger, female, 65-74, area of deprivation)

4.18 Parents in the group we spoke to said that not having a Badge was a 'deterrent' to going out. This was because of the inconvenience of having to manoeuvre into a normal parking space. Many of the parents had specially adapted cars with ramps for wheelchairs and found that these could be difficult to park without the extra width of a disabled space.

4.19 Focus group participants were strongly against the idea of having to rely on other people to drive them if they found themselves without a Blue Badge. One participant said this was 'an infringement' of her 'human rights' as relying on others put strains on relationships and did not help to retain her independence.

4.20 Others commented that it could become difficult to rely on friends and family - particularly when this could potentially become a regular request.

'People have no time for you - and you don't want to be a burden.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, ethnic minority focus group, urban)

The Use of Public Transport

4.21 The telephone survey revealed that over three-quarters (76%) of respondents had a free bus pass or concessionary travel pass. Despite this, only 23% of respondents thought that using public transport was an alternative if they did not have a Blue Badge.

4.22 Focus group participants stated that public transport was not really a viable alternative to travelling in a car with a Blue Badge. Firstly was the issue of spontaneity. Participants said that journeys on public transport had to be pre-arranged with the bus or train company.

'You can't just decide you want to go somewhere - you have to book the ramp in advance.'
(Both driver and passenger, female, 55-64, area of deprivation).

4.23 Secondly, participants indicated the issue of bus drivers and staff on trains not being 'disability aware'. There were three examples from different focus groups of disabled passengers asking the bus driver not to move off until they were seated - in two of these examples, the bus drove away and both participants had fallen on the bus.

'I don't like the bus; I'm a bit shaky; I ring the bell and then they jam the brakes on to see how far they can throw you down the bus.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

'I find bus drivers to be impatient and rude. I ask them not to drive away until I've sat down, but this never happens. I've fallen a few times.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, rural)

4.24 Financial implications were mentioned as a third reason why public transport - or specifically taxis in this case could not be a viable alternative to using a Blue Badge. This was particularly a problem in rural areas. Participants here spoke of spending more than the cost of the Blue Badge to undertake one trip by taxi.

'A round trip from home to the shops was £34.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, rural)

'My son had to spend £70 in a taxi to and from Aberdeen because the bus refused to take him because he had not called ahead to tell them he would be using his wheelchair on the bus.'
(Parent, female, 45-54, rural)

4.25 The unreliability of public transport also put people off from travelling - having to wait long periods of time or having to change trains or buses because of breakdowns were all 'stressful' situations for Blue Badge holders and their carers.

'Buses are exhausting and are not flexible enough in the routes they take.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, urban)

4.26 Similarly, finding a space for a wheelchair on buses or trains was thought to be very difficult - especially at busy times. Examples were given of the disabled spaces on trains being used for luggage storage, or parents with prams getting priority over the disabled bays on buses.


4.27 Telephone respondents indicated that the value of the Badge was that they could park closer to their destination and 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.

4.28 Without the Blue Badge, most people agreed that they would go out less often. Three-quarters (76%) of the telephone respondents said this, and there was similar feeling among the focus group participants. 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.

4.29 Public transport was not perceived as a viable alternative to the Blue Badge. Having to plan ahead to ensure suitable arrangements were in place put people off and took the spontaneity out of travelling. Others were put off by the unreliability of public transport and having to negotiate on and off the bus, often without assistance.