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

5. Restrictions and Enforcements


5.1 The research asked about the rules and restrictions of using a Blue Badge and what the penalties should be for misuse. This section of the report details the findings from the telephone survey and the focus group discussions (including the mini group with young people).

Blue Badge booklet

5.2 Telephone survey respondents were specifically asked if they have, or were aware of the Blue Badge Users booklet which is distributed with the Badge giving details of how and where it can be used. Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents indicated that they either had, or were aware of the booklet. Three focus group participants spontaneously mentioned the booklet during the discussions.

Understanding of rules and restrictions

5.3 Ninety-two per cent of survey respondents felt they had a good understanding of the rules and restrictions of using their Blue Badge.

5.4 Focus group participants however, debated the rules on where Blue Badge holders were able to park. For example, there were contradictory views expressed by a number of participants, as to whether Blue Badge holders could park on double yellow lines.

'No one can park on a double yellow line.'
(Both driver and passenger, male, 65-74, small town)

'You can park on double yellow as long as there is no sign about a loading bay and you're not blocking an entrance.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

'If you're parked on a double yellow line you have to display the clock to show how long you intend to park.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

'A single yellow is ok, but no one can park on a double yellow line.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, ethnic minority focus group, urban)

5.5 Three discussion groups commented that they felt they understood the rules about parking; but that some traffic wardens and police did not. Eight participants had received a ticket for parking on a single or double yellow line while displaying their Blue Badge.

'I understand where I can park - but they [traffic wardens] don't.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

5.6 One participant gave an example of arguing with a traffic warden about parking on a double yellow line. This participant used the booklet that accompanied the Blue Badge to show the warden that he was entitled to park there.

5.7 Also causing confusion was the introduction of a 'clock timer' with Badges issued in the last few months. These timers restrict parking to three hours but are only applicable in England. There was confusion among participants if these were to be used for on street parking, or, as some people suggested, were for use only in England and Wales.

'The timer lets you park on a double yellow line for up to three hours.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, rural)

'The timer lets you park for three hours; you'll get a ticket if you're in a Blue Badge space, but the timer has run out.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, ethnic minority focus group, urban)

'I renewed the Badge and got a clock - but it's only for use in England.'
(Both driver and passenger, male, 65-74, small town)

5.8 Two focus group participants who had used their Scottish issued Blue Badge in England and had been given a parking ticket because they had not displayed their 'clock timer' - despite not being issued with one. Another participant had been lent a clock from his local authority for use during a holiday in England.

5.9 Those participants who had held their Badge for a number of years did not have, or were unaware of, the introduction of a timer.

5.10 Focus group participants spoke of sometimes not being aware whether certain locations were 'Blue Badge friendly' and there were examples of people 'taking the chance' and parking without knowing whether there were restrictions in place. One example was a parent who parked in a loading bay on a Sunday, when the bay was not in use - but who received a parking ticket.

'Often I just park and wait to see if I get a ticket.'
(Parent, male, 35-44, urban)

'I'm never really sure where I can park, but I tend to try it once to see if I can get away with it, and if so; I'll come back.'
(Parent, female, 35-44, urban)

5.11 Focus group participants and telephone respondents (82%) indicated that there were places they avoid driving to or visiting because of parking restrictions with the Blue Badge scheme.

5.12 Just under 1 in 5 of the telephone survey respondents (18%) indicated that there were some places they avoided driving to or visiting because of restrictions with the Blue Badge Scheme. In the focus groups, some people, including several of the parents said that they tried to avoid on-street parking because of the difficulties in getting a wheelchair and ramp from the back of the car into the street.

'I avoid parking on single or double yellow lines - it is impossible to get the wheelchair and ramp out the back if someone parks close by - even with the 'leave three metres' sticker on the back.'
(Carer, female, 65-74, small town)

5.13 Aberdeen City has a Green Badge scheme (although this scheme has no legislative basis). This is available to people living in the local authority area who find it difficult to use other designated city centre spaces. The Green Badge allows access to certain specially reserved kerbside spaces in this city centre. Eligibility for a Green Badge is for those who find it difficult to use other designated parking facilities for people with disabilities. The Green Badge spaces allow for getting out from a vehicle either by a side ramp or tail lift. Kerbs have been lowered at every Green Badge location[11].

5.14 Green Badge holders may park for a maximum period of three hours in the specially designated spaces. This is regulated by the use of a windscreen parking disc which must be displayed to show the time of arrival.

5.15 Participants in the neighbouring rural local authority area who frequently travelled to the city centre were confused about the introduction of the Green Badge spaces and who could park in them. One participant had received a ticket for parking in a Green Badge space while displaying her Blue Badge. There was concern from participants in this rural area that the Green Badge spaces now took priority over a Blue Badge space.

'Now the Blue Badge spaces are even further away.'
(Driver, male, 75-84, rural)

Designated disabled parking bays

5.16 Eight participants taking part in the focus groups revealed that they had a designated disabled parking bay outside their home. Disabled parking bays are allocated by local authorities where it is considered that the circumstances warrant such action. The parking bay was not intended however to be for the sole use of a particular individual, although some local authorities did allocate the bays in this way. Disabled parking bays may legitimately be used by any Blue Badge holder, despite the perception of these participants who believed the bay was for their own use.

5.17 One participant spoke of having to liaise with Social Work for six months in order to get the disabled parking bay. Since it has been installed outside his house, he has been unable to use it as his neighbour (also a Blue Badge holder) parks in it for days at a time.

'There is no marking indicating who the bay is it can be used by other Blue Badge holders. It's ridiculous that I can't use my own parking bay.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, ethnic minority focus group, urban)

5.18 Another focus group participant with a disabled parking bay outside her house was the parent of a child who had recently had her Blue Badge status withdrawn. This meant that without the Blue Badge, she could, and had been given, a parking ticket for parking her car in her 'own' designated parking space. This space still had her house number painted on it.

5.19 These eight participants believed that recently the rules of parking bays had changed, and where it used to be that the disabled parking bay was assigned to their particular address; this was no longer the case. Participants indicated that 'their' disabled bays could now be used by any Blue Badge holder.

'Anyone can park in a Blue Badge parking bay - it's not fair.'
(Parent, female, 35-44, small town)

5.20 The change in the rules about disabled parking bays is that they are now enforceable. [12] Disabled bays have always been capable of being used by any vehicle displaying a valid badge. Any designation of a particular car or house number using the bay was a local arrangement with the council with no legal backing.

Using the Blue Badge if the disabled person is not in the car

5.21 Focus groups discussed the issue of carers using the Blue Badge when the holder was not in the car. The rules state that this is not allowed. There were mixed views with some people claiming that they continued to use disabled bays, if carrying out tasks on behalf of the disabled person (even if they were not in the car). Others firmly believed that if the Blue Badge holder was not present - there was no need to take up a Blue Badge space.

'I use it a lot of the time, even when my partner isn't with me. If I'm the carer; then it's allowed.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, rural)

'They're allowed to use the Badge if they are shopping for you. It says so in the book.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, small town)

5.22 One disabled participant indicated that even if he was present in the car, but was not getting out; then he would park in a normal space - not a disabled space.

'If I'm not getting out of the car then I'm not entitled to use the space.'
(Driver, male, 75-84, rural)

5.23 Parents also commented that they would hand the Blue Badge over to childminders, or carers so that the Badge 'accompanies the child' as it was for their benefit; not the benefit of the driver.

Misuse of the Blue Badge

5.24 Over three-quarters (76%) of the telephone survey respondents indicated that they had 'regularly or sometimes' experienced misuse of the Blue Badge scheme. Seventeen per cent however said that they had never experienced it.

5.25 Telephone survey respondents who had witnessed misuse of the Badge reported that this was most likely in a supermarket or private shopping mall car park (92%).

5.26 Focus group participants gave many examples of people misusing disabled parking bays. Again, this tended to be in supermarket or private shopping mall car parks. One focus group believed that the misuse of Badges (either fake or stolen Badges) was a problem. The majority of focus group participants felt that people parking in disabled parking spaces without displaying a Blue Badge was a serious problem.

5.27 The focus group participants perceived that often it was 'young, professionals' who were the 'worst offenders' as well as those with expensive cars who used the wider disabled bays to ensure no one damaged their cars. Also noted for misusing spaces were taxi drivers and 'young mothers'.

'They think it's their God given right to park wherever they want.'
(Passenger, female, 65-74, area of deprivation)

'Taxi drivers reverse into the spaces and sit and wait for a pick up.'
(Carer, male, 75-84, small town)

5.28 Participants had been active in challenging people who parked in disabled spaces. Some had asked people to move their cars, while others had double parked people into the space so they could not leave; left messages on windscreens; or uploaded photographs of the offending car to the internet in a bid to 'name and shame'.

'I park behind them and deliberately take twice as long. There's nothing they can do because they are in the wrong.'
(Driver, male, 55-64, rural area)

'I watched a woman pull into the disabled space in front of me; when I challenged her, she just ignored me and walked off, so I left a note on her windscreen in lipstick.'
(Parent, female, 35-44, urban)

'I have stickers that I stick to their windscreens that say 'you have parked in a disabled bay without a Blue Badge. I am reporting you.' It's supposed to be a deterrent - and the stickers are a nightmare to get off.'
(Driver, male, 45-54, small town)

5.29 The young people we spoke to from the Whizz Kidz project in Edinburgh had strong views about people parking in disabled spaces without a Blue Badge. They had decided to launch their own campaign to raise awareness of the need for disabled spaces for disabled people.

'It makes me angry; it's not our fault we need to use the spaces.'
(Young female, 14 years)

'It's annoying because they don't really need it.'
(Young female, 13 years)

5.30 Their campaign slogan was entitled 'If you ain't Blue; this space ain't for you' and was being used on posters and leaflets to be distributed around the local area.

Lending the Blue Badge to others

5.31 The vast majority of telephone survey respondents said that they had never been asked by anyone to borrow their Badge. Two per cent (or 15 individuals) said that they had lent their Badge to someone else. One focus group participant indicated he had been asked to photocopy his Badge so a family member could also use it - but he refused. Lending the Badge to others is an offence and could result in a £1,000 fine.

5.32 Focus group participants agreed that they were 'too fearful' to lend their Badges to others, in case they were caught and the Badge subsequently withdrawn.

'I wouldn't lend my Badge to anyone - it's £1000 if you get caught.'
(Driver, male, 75-84, small town)

5.33 The Blue Badge was viewed as something of value, that was to be looked after and would be very much missed if it was withdrawn.

Enforcement of the Blue Badge Scheme

5.34 One third of telephone respondents indicated that they agreed the Blue Badge scheme is adequately enforced while 50% disagreed that the Scheme was being enforced.

5.35 Focus group participants also had mixed views about whether the Scheme was adequately enforced. No-one had ever heard of anyone being prosecuted for misusing a Badge. Those parking on the street on single or double yellow lines found that they did encounter traffic wardens - but that the wardens did not understand the rules and restrictions of the Scheme. Participants called for better education of the Blue Badge scheme for traffic wardens.

'I parked on the street and had the Badge on display - but I got a ticket because I didn't put any money in the meter.'
(Driver, female, 65-74, small town)

5.36 Several participants had been issued with parking tickets for not displaying their Badge correctly. They felt that the Scheme was being enforced and although receiving a ticket - were glad that vehicles were being checked.

5.37 Privately owned off-street car parks, such as supermarkets or shopping centres had different levels of enforcement. Some participants said their local shopping centre had introduced a warden who could check Blue Badges, while others said that there were no checks on the parking at all - which they felt led to the widespread misuse of the spaces.

'Supermarkets should be doing more to enforce the parking Badge, but they don't want to upset their shoppers.'
(Driver, male, 45-54, small town)

Penalties for misuse

5.38 The participants discussed what they felt would be appropriate punishments for those misusing disabled parking bays. Suggestions included:

  • fines;
  • clamping;
  • towing; and
  • penalty points.

5.39 One participant also suggested that the supermarket chain should be fined as it is their statutory duty to ensure that the disabled parking bays they provide are able to be used for that purpose.

'Enforce it so it hits their pockets - the same as for a parking fine.'
(Driver, male, 65-74, small town)

'There is a law in the Disability Discrimination Act that states that anyone who provides disabled bays is responsible to make sure those spaces are used by disabled people.'
(Passenger, female, 45-54, small town)

Eligibility to the Blue Badge Scheme

5.40 Eighty-eight per cent of telephone survey respondents indicated that they thought that the entitlements of the Blue Badge scheme were appropriate. Those who felt it was not appropriate suggested that there should be stricter rules and enforcements (29%) and that some people get a Badge who do not need it (21%).

5.41 Focus group respondents believed a Blue Badge should be given to anyone with a physical disability and those with mobility problems. Some participants mentioned that those with learning disabilities should also automatically qualify for a Blue Badge.

5.42 Focus group participants thought that the Blue Badge should not be based on age. Participants in the ethnic minority focus group indicated that they knew of many people who were still driving into their 90s who had no mobility problems. They felt that entitlement should be based only on mobility.

5.43 Some participants indicated they felt strongly that the current eligibility was too lenient. It was suggested that anyone with a good relationship with their GP could be given a Blue Badge.

5.44 The focus group participants were able to recite examples of people they knew who had been given a Blue Badge for reasons, they perceived to be unfair. These included obesity, alcoholism, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

'They got a Blue Badge from their GP because their child has behavioural problems - but he doesn't really need it.'
(Parent, female, 45-54, urban)

5.45 The group of parents of disabled children commented that there was 'ambiguity' surrounding the criteria for eligibility - particularly for children under three years old.

5.46 There were some complaints from parents and other participants that they had had to be examined by a GP, nominated by their local authority rather than their own GP, before being allocated a Blue Badge. Participants felt inconvenienced by this.

'We had to see a GP that was assigned by the local authority, which was a total waste of time. Surely your own GP knows the situation better.'
(Parent, male, 45-54, urban)

Temporary Badges

5.47 In addition to the perception that people were awarded Badges who did not need them; was the idea that a Badge could be awarded for longer than was necessary. Some participants knew of others who had been awarded a Blue Badge which was valid for three years - despite having a temporary mobility issue, such as a broken leg, or recovering from surgery. The Blue Badge Scheme does issue temporary badges for up to one year to applicants who are unable to walk, or virtually unable to walk because of a "temporary but substantial" disability which is likely to last for a period of at least 12 months but less than three years. This is unique to Scotland.

5.48 Five of the focus groups discussed this issue spontaneously. The majority agreed that the introduction of a temporary Blue Badge would be a good idea; one that comes with an expiry date and is distinct in colour from the 'Blue' Badge.

5.49 Parents felt that if a temporary Badge was 'one less thing to worry about' for their children; then it should be rolled out.

5.50 Only one participant voiced their objection - stating that a Blue Badge should only be for those with long term mobility issues.

Stigma with using a Blue Badge

5.51 Focus group participants spoke about the issue of stigma, and the problems associated with being a Blue Badge holder but not 'looking like a disabled person'. One young participant in her 30s spoke of being challenged regularly while dropping her children off at school.

'They see me with a buggy and I get looks for parking in a disabled space. I don't look like the type to have a Blue Badge.'
(Parent, female, 35-44, rural)

5.52 Participants agreed that there is a 'stigma' about having a Blue Badge and that people expect you to be older or in a wheelchair. Another young participant told of how she had been challenged - predominantly by older people for parking in a disabled space.

'My response was...'I don't have a blue rinse; but I do have a Blue Badge'.'
(Driver, female, 55-64, rural)

5.53 Another participant spoke of how he often felt 'guilty' for getting out of the car with his wife, who had a Badge based on her heart condition. He was convinced that 'someone will think I'm at it.'

'To look at us we look like a perfectly healthy couple.'
(Carer, male, 75-84, small town)

5.54 Parents also had experiences of being challenged for not 'looking disabled' - despite having their disabled children in the car, and in some cases 'wheelchairs clearly visible'. They felt they had to 'prove' they were entitled to park in disabled spaces, while some commented that they drove adapted cars with ramps and questioned why anyone would then challenge them. These parents commented that another benefit of the Blue Badge was its ability to prove the need for the space.

'Other drivers scrutinise you and your children to see that there is a genuine disability.'
(Parent, female, small town)

What Blue Badge holders should be able to do

5.55 Focus group participants were asked what Blue Badge holders should be able to do; where they should be allowed to park; and what the restrictions of use should be. Participants agreed that they should be able to use the Badge anywhere as long as they were not causing an obstruction.

'Anytime we need it - as long as we're not abusing it; no double yellow lines or in dangerous places.'
(Both driver and passenger, female, 55-64, area of deprivation)

Suggested improvements to the Blue Badge Scheme

5.56 During the course of conducting the qualitative research, participants offered suggestions on how they thought the Blue Badge scheme should operate. These are as follows:

  • Photograph: 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. In addition, some parents indicated that they had experienced difficulty in providing a 'passport style' photograph because they could not get their children into a photo booth. However, the application asks for a 'passport sized' photograph; which could be any photograph, cut to a standard size. It would be beneficial if this subtle difference could be communicated to Blue Badge applicants and local authorities, who had rejected some photographs unnecessarily because they were not 'passport style'.
  • Cost of the Blue Badge: During the course of our qualitative research we discovered that the cost of the Blue Badge varies by local authority. Each authority decides the charge for the Badge; which varied from being free in North Lanarkshire and South Ayrshire, to £20 in Renfrewshire, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This was for use for three years. Participants at the groups indicated that the charge of £20 still demonstrated reasonable 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: The telephone survey identified that the majority of people felt they understood the rules and regulations of parking with a Blue Badge. However, the focus group discussions revealed discrepancies in peoples' understanding of the Scheme. Particular issues of contention included whether parking on a double yellow line was allowed; and whether there were restrictions on the length of time that a Blue Badge allowed you to park. The introduction of a 'clock timer' had also confused participants as to whether this was for use on double yellow lines - or only in England as some participants suggested.
  • Disability awareness training: Some participants commented that their own knowledge of the Blue Badge scheme was good - but some traffic wardens and 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). Participants called for more training for police and traffic wardens.
  • Customer Service: Participants spoke of their negative experiences on public transport where bus drivers were not perceptive to the needs of disabled people. Two participants said that they had fallen over on the bus as it moved off before they were seated - despite asking 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 penalty 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.


5.57 The vast majority of telephone survey respondents (92%) felt that they had a good understanding of the rules and restrictions of using their Blue Badge. However focus group participants 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.

5.58 Also causing confusion was the introduction of a 'clock timer' which restricts parking in England. Some participants were under the impression this timer was also in use in Scotland.

5.59 Participants commented that although they believed they had a good understanding of the rules - they did not think that traffic wardens or police understood the Scheme sufficiently. Several participants had received parking tickets despite displaying their Badges correctly.

5.60 There were some participants who continued to use the Blue Badge even when the Badge holder was not present, if carrying out tasks on their behalf. Others firmly believed that if the Blue Badge holder was not present, there was no need to take up a Blue Badge space.

5.61 Over three-quarters (76%) of the telephone respondents had experienced misuse of the Blue Badge scheme. The main problem being people parking in disabled spaces without displaying a Blue Badge.

5.62 Participants agreed that they were 'too fearful' to lend their Badges to others, in case they were caught and the Badge subsequently withdrawn. Others indicated they felt it was just 'wrong' to lend their Badges to others.

5.63 The participants suggested a range of suitable penalties for misuse of the Blue Badge scheme such as fines, clamping, or towing vehicles, or issuing points on their driving licence.

5.64 Eighty-eight per cent of telephone respondents thought that the current qualification criteria for a Blue Badge were appropriate. Those who disagreed with the criteria suggested that it needed to be stricter to stop those who do not really need a Badge from getting one. Participants in the focus groups spoke of people receiving a Blue Badge for reasons they believed were unfair (these included obesity, alcoholism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

5.65 There was also the issue that individuals could be awarded a Blue Badge for longer than was necessary; for example being issued with a Badge valid for three years for a temporary mobility issue, such as a broken leg. Participants suggested the introduction of a temporary Badge that comes with an expiry date and is distinct from the 'Blue Badge', however temporary Badges for up to one year, already exist.

5.66 Focus group participants commented that they felt the Scheme was being informally enforced by members of the public who 'scrutinised' them as they parked in disabled spaces. Several participants had been challenged by 'older people' who suggested that they were 'too young' or 'too healthy' to need to use a Blue Badge space. Parents spoke of using their Blue Badge as 'proof' of their need for the space.