This is the change that could be coming to Lancashire's blue badge parking scheme

Blue badge-holders in Lancashire with certain conditions and disabilities might not have to start from scratch each time they have to reapply for the concession.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 19th January 2020, 9:13 am
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 3:08 pm

The badges, which entitle users to various car-parking benefits, currently have to be reapplied for every three years - with each application being treated as completely new.

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Who is eligible for a blue badge and what does it entitle them to?

Committee member George Wilkins told bosses from the County Hall department that deals with the scheme that he is regularly approached by badge-holders who do not understand why they have to be regularly reassessed.

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Blue badges have to be renewed every three years

“People tell me their limbs haven’t grown back and their arthritis hasn’t got any better,” County Cllr Wilkins said.

Ben Zebrowski, quality team manager in the council’s customer access service, accepted that some conditions are not going to see “any significant improvement” - and revealed that the authority was looking at building on an element of discretion which is already permitted on the system.

“There is some functionality to allow us to override that need to do a full application. So [an applicant] might have to provide some basic demographic details - but we are looking at bringing in something so they wouldn’t have to provide the reams of information that they would do under an initial application.

“We want to make it easier for customers to do that,” said Mr. Zebrowski, adding that any changes might be up to 12 months away.

But the meeting heard that there was little flexibility permitted regarding the questions asked in full applications relating to how far somebody could walk. County Cllr Wilkins suggested that the focus should be on an applicant’s capability “on their worst day”.

However, members were told that the customer access team follows up any lack of information or contradictions on a blue badge application, rather than just dismissing it out of hand.

Nationwide changes to the blue badge scheme last summer saw the government allow them to be given to people with non-physical disabilities, such as mental health issues, for the first time.

In Lancashire, the changes saw a spike in applications three times as big as the county council was expecting - they leapt by 30 percent, resulting in an additional 7,500 attempts to obtain a blue badge.

The authority is now planning to re-examine its enforcement policy because of the number of blue badges in use.

But members were told that they had not received any reports to back up concerns expressed on social media that people with "hidden disabilities" might be targeted by others who see them using a blue badge.

Several committee members raised concerns that the push for applications to be done digitally risked disadvantaging many of the people who might be in need of a blue badge.

Sarah Jenkins, head of service for the customer access team said online applications freed up time for staff to help those in need - meaning paper forms were now the “exception”.

“I’d urge anybody having difficulty [with the online system] to ring, because we will spend time with you - whether it’s 40 minutes or an hour,” she said.

Anybody having trouble uploading photos was told that they can send them by post even if they have filled in an application online.

Lancashire County Council's blue badge service is one of the largest in the country - there are over 58,000 badges in circulation and almost 30,000 applications per year.