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£55m overhaul of disabled parking toughest crackdown yet on Blue Badge abuse

£55m overhaul of disabled parking toughest crackdown yet on Blue Badge abuse

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (156) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 20 October 2008

A radical overhaul of the Blue Badge scheme was announced today by Transport Minister Paul Clark. Up to £55 million will be dedicated to ensuring that the disabled parking scheme meets the needs of the 21st Century.

For the first time Government is looking to give councils the power to confiscate stolen or forged Blue Badges immediately when they find them. This is to help reduce Blue Badge associated vehicle crime, as well as safeguarding key parking, close to vital services, for those who need it most. 73% of respondents to the recent Blue Badge consultation highlighted this as key way to fight abuse of the scheme.

The biggest review of the Blue Badge, since it was created in 1971, will also enable more people than ever to retain their independence, The strategy commits to extending the scheme to seriously disabled Armed Forces personnel and veterans, people with temporary but serious mobility problems, young children with specific disabilities and individuals with severe mental impairments.

Paul Clark said:

"The Blue Badge already provides a vital lifeline for more than 2.3 million disabled people in England. It helps them retain their independence by making it easier to access vital services, visit friends and family, as well as to seek work or education. That is why it is so important to make sure that it meets the needs of today's society.

"Two thirds of councils tell us abuse of the scheme is a major issue - and that around 1 in every 200 Badges in circulation are reported as stolen each year. And with forged or stolen Badges reportedly being sold on the black market for up to £1,500 a time, it is time to get tough and stop Blue Badge abuse and vehicle crime.

"Alongside this we need to make sure that everyone who needs a Badge receives one, and that is why I have today announced that we will be extending the scope of the scheme."

To support immediate confiscation of misused badges a £10m national data sharing system will be established by councils to ensure stolen or forged Badges from outside their local area can be easily identified for the first time.

The Department for Transport is also looking at new technologies to make Badges harder to forge, including barcodes that can be read through windscreens.

Helen Smith Mobilise Director of Policy and Campaigns said:

"Mobilise has been campaigning for a review of the Blue Badge scheme for many years and so we welcome this announcement of the new Blue Badge strategy.

"Unfortunately too many people are misusing and abusing Blue Badges and this means the scheme is no longer benefiting the people that it should. Only by ensuring that people meeting the qualifying criteria are issued with badges and abuse of the scheme is taken very seriously will the scheme work again as it was intended.

"I therefore hope that this strategy will tackle these issues and ensure that disabled people are able to get out and about and park a lot more easily."

A new system of assessing eligibility for the Blue Badge is also being developed, with dedicated independent medical assessors, who will ensure that only those who really need a Badge receive one. This will standardise assessments throughout the country, and lighten the workload of GPs, who currently carry out individual assessments in many areas.

Nine councils have been awarded the status 'Centre of Excellence'. This is in recognition of their innovative work in administering and enforcing the Blue Badge Scheme. They will share good practice that has worked well in their local area and drive up improvements in management of the scheme with other local authorities.

Notes to Editors

1. The Disabled Person's Parking Badge Scheme (the 'Blue Badge Scheme') was introduced in 1971 to provide a national arrangement of on-street parking concessions for disabled people, allowing them to access goods and services more easily.

2. The Department for Transport conducted a strategic review of the Scheme between May and September 2007. This was followed by a consultation on the reviews findings in January 2008, which closed in April 2008.

3. New efforts to fight fraud and abuse of the Blue Badge scheme include:

* Establishing a national system of data sharing (using up to £10 million of government funds) to identify Blue Badge cheats. We hope to compliment this with new legal powers that will allow parking enforcement officers to seize lost, stolen and fraudulent Blue Badges.

* Upgrading the Badge security features, as such as barcodes that can be read through windscreens, to make the Badge harder to forge

* Conducting a national publicity campaign to highlight the Blue Badge Reform Strategy. This will include messages about the impact that abuse has on disabled people.

* Supporting the British Retail Consortium to reduce abuse in their members' off-street car parks, such as supermarket car parks.

4. The £55 million funding is made up from £10 million over three years to set up a system of data sharing, and £45 million over the same period of time to pay for Blue Badge assessments.

5. Whilst Parking Enforcement Officers currently inspect Blue Badges, the power to seize lies solely with the police. Extending this power will allow Local Authorities to act more independently in tackling abuse, whilst freeing up police time to deal with local policing priorities.

6. Proposed extensions to Blue Badge entitlements will make the following groups eligible, once new legislation is in place:

* people with the most severe mental impairments / extremely disruptive behavioural problems

* specific individuals with temporary mobility problems lasting a minimum of one year

* children under the age of 3 with specific medical conditions

* Injured active/ex-service personnel in receipt of specific tariffs of award under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

7. How we assess who gets a Badge will be made fairer and more consistent - local authorities with receive up to £15 million per year to conduct improved independent medical assessments. This will also help to protect against people getting badges who don't need them.

8. There are nine Blue Badge Centres of Excellence in England (COE). These are:

* Manchester and Bolton as joint COE for North West England

* Rotherham as COE for Yorkshire and Humberside

* Bournemouth as COE for South West England

* Southampton as COE for South East England

* Birmingham and Coventry as joint COE for the West Midlands

* Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea as joint COE for London.

9. Full details of the Blue Badge Strategy can be found on the DfT's website at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/bluebadge/

Public Enquiries: 020 7944 8300
Department for Transport Website: http://www.dft.gov.uk

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