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  1. ITV Report

Blue badge parking applications a 'postcode lottery' for people with hidden disabilities

Mum, Melonie Joseph from Neath, says she can't get a blue badge for her daughter Polly who has autism. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

People with "hidden disabilities" say the process of applying for a blue badge is difficult, challenging and often a postcode lottery. Families across Wales say they have been declined a disabled parking permit from their local authority which causes huge stress.

Parents David and Melonie Joseph from Neath say they can't get a blue badge for their 11-year-old daughter Polly who has autism along with sensory and mobility issues. They say a parking permit would make a world of difference to Polly's quality of life.

Melonie and David say a parking permit would make a world of difference to their daughter's quality of life. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Polly's dad David says they're limited to what they can do as a family. "She's just turned 11 now and obviously when she was younger we'd be able to pick her up and carry her into the supermarket but obviously as she gets older she's getting a bit heavier so there's major major difficulties so one of the problems we find all of the time is getting in and out of car parks."

We are fighting all the time to try and get a quality of life for her yet we can't get further than these forms. It's not fair on her quality of life, we've tried to manage and I don't think we should be managing any longer. I think it's about time something changes, not just for our child but for every child.

– Melonie Joseph, Polly's mum
There are 211,000 badges in circulation in Wales. Credit: PA Images

What are the rules when it comes to applying for a blue badge?

In Wales, there are more than 200,000 badges and a person can qualify in one of three categories.

  • Automatic - for the blind, those on a higher rate of Disability allowance or veterans severely injured.
  • Discretionary - for those unable to walk, with a terminal illness or with a severe mental impairment.
  • Temporary - for people recovering from serious treatment or illness.

Hidden disabilities like autism are eligible for permits under the discretionary category.

211,000
blue badges in Wales.
Natalie wants the blue badge to be more inclusive of hidden disabilities. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Natalie Ann Beattie from Barry, who's 13-year-old son Ethan has autism, says a badge would greatly help their challenging circumstances.

"Ethan's behaviour, his autism can be very challenging. It can be very unpredictable at times. He can become very aggressive towards us, kicking, biting, punching sometimes. He's completely out of his comfort zone so we need the car nearby so if we do need to move him from a situation that's causing him anxiety then that would be great to be parking somewhere nearby."

There's a whole host of things we deal with on a daily basis so just to have that blue badge would make going out that little bit easier for us as a family

– Natalie Ann Beattie, Ethan's mum

Natalie wants the blue badge to be more inclusive of hidden disabilities.

"Just because somebody doesn't look disabled, well there are mental illnesses and conditions that people don't see every day. Even the badge itself has a picture of a wheelchair which isn't inclusive of all disabilities."

Disability Wales say there's a lack of awareness from different local authorities. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Disability Wales says there needs to be greater awareness from local authorities regarding eligibility criteria.

"A blue badge is not a luxury item. It's an essential aid to independent living, and for many who are unable to get out and about without support. We are happy that the scheme was extended back in 2014 to include those with a cognitive impairment including autism but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of awareness on who's eligible for a blue badge across different local authority areas."

Both of the family's local councils say they follow the Welsh Government's criteria when awarding the badges.

Local authorities are responsible for deciding who is eligible to receive a Blue Badge, but this decision is based on clear guidance issued by the Welsh Government. Under this guidance we must receive sufficient supporting medical evidence to show that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria before a Blue Badge can be granted. The Council also has an appeals and complaints process.

– Neath Port Talbot County Council

Meanwhile the Vale of Glamorgan Council said they have an autism team able to offer advice and information.

To be eligible for a Blue Badge, an individual must meet criteria set by Welsh Government relating to mobility. Should any Vale of Glamorgan resident be unhappy we are always happy to receive any additional evidence that an applicant may have in order to reconsider the application.

– Lance Carver, Vale of Glamorgan Council Director of Social Services

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “In partnership with health professionals we have developed ‘best practice guidance’ which provides sound advice to local authorities as they process applications for a badge. This is constantly under review and we believe it ensures the most consistent approach to assessment and outcome throughout Wales.”

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