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Improvements to Welsh blue badge scheme announced
Plans include extending eligibility to children under three years old, people with temporary conditions and to new groups of disabled people.
The action plan also details how the Assembly Government will work with local authorities to streamline the application and administration process and improve systems to tackle abuse of the scheme.
Mr Jones said,
"The blue badge scheme has been going for nearly 40 years and has helped registered blind or severely disabled people to park close to the facilities and services they need.
"But we now feel it is time to completely re-look at the scheme to ensure it is fit for purpose, which is why we commissioned the wide ranging consultation on which this action plan is based. We have listened to what we people have said they need and taken on board the problems with the present scheme.
"This plan sets out how we will work with partners to develop a scheme that will meet the future needs of the people of Wales by improving equality of opportunity and access for the most severely disabled people.
"We need to ensure that the people who are most in need of a Blue Badge are able to access the service quickly and efficiently, and we make best use of modern technology to reduce the abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme."
Mr Jones said the whole programme would take up to 5 years to deliver although there are opportunities to prioritise some areas for early implementation. For example, priority will be given to extending the scheme to children under the age of 3 with specific medical conditions as well as to people with severe congenital disabilities in both arms and who find it difficult to use parking equipment.
Mr Jones added,
"I have set up a dedicated team within to take this exciting programme forward and we will work closely with local authorities, disability groups and other key stakeholders. We are also liaising with UK Government and other devolved administrations to ensure that a cohesive scheme is developed across the UK."
The Blue Badge Scheme was introduced in 1971 to provide parking concessions for registered blind or severely disabled people to enable them to park close to the facilities and services they need to use. There are around 230,000 Blue Badge holders in Wales.
The main commitments to improve the scheme are to:
- extend eligibility of the Scheme to children under 3 years of age with specific medical conditions;
- extend eligibility of the Scheme to new groups of disabled people;
- provide people who experience major traumas, strokes or require joint replacements with a temporary Blue Badge.
- look at options to improve the application and assessment process;
- work with local authorities to streamline the administration process;
- reduce Blue Badge abuse by establishing a system of data sharing between local authorities, improving Badge security features and look at the possibilities of civil enforcement officers being able to seize Blue Badges that are being used unlawfully;
- and work with partners such as the British Retail Consortium to tackle parking abuse in private car parks.