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Changes to the blue badge scheme

Blue badge users in Herefordshire face changes this year that will speed up the application process and help reduce fraud.

Blue badges entitle disabled people with mobility problems to park free of charge in on-street parking spaces and Herefordshire Council car parks.  It is a national scheme administered by Herefordshire Council on behalf of the Department of Transport.  The scheme aims to help people travel independently, either as drivers or passengers, by allowing them to park close to their destination.

From this month, Herefordshire Council has introduced a more robust application form which will speed up the application process and help customers avoid unnecessary visits to info centres for assessments.  An on-line application is also available on the Directgov website which users can access through the council’s website (www.herefordshire.gov.uk/bluebadge).

Children can also benefit from changes this year as the blue badge scheme will be extended to children under three years of age with specific medical conditions: previously only those aged under two with specific medical conditions were eligible.

Successful badge applications are either automatic or discretionary. This system will continue with discretionary applications requiring supporting evidence such as prescription lists, hospital appointments and any medical proof of their condition.  However, if sufficient evidence isn’t provided, blue badge applicants may be required to attend a mobility assessment as part of the application process.

Another improvement is that automatic entitlement will be extended to eligible service personnel who did not benefit from the scheme previously.

Fraud currently costs the country an estimated £46m a year, so a new badge design is being introduced that is more difficult to copy.  To help cover some of the costs of this new design and administering the scheme, Herefordshire Council will be following neighbouring authorities and increasing the application fee to £10.
  
Richard Beavan-Pearson, assistant director for customer services and communications, said: “The application fee hasn’t increased since 1983 and we need to raise it to help cover some of the administrative costs more adequately and reduce fraud. It works out at just over £3 a year for most applicants.

“We are also bringing in changes to make the application process easier and fairer.  The improvements made will help us make sure that those in need find it much easier and straight forward to obtain their blue badges.”