Blue badge fraud: fairer access for all

Personal independence is important for so many reasons and the UK’s blue badge schemes helps those with disabilities access amenities and services with greater ease. However, it is greatly abused. Denise Payne explains why this is bad for disabled people, communities and councils. The badge is valid for on-street use, although many supermarkets and off-street car parks allow blue badges to be used to obtain preferential spaces.

The Government estimates that there are currently 2.6 million blue badges in circulation. The rules governing the use of blue badges are strict due to the nature of the concessions it grants and the onus of responsible use placed on the badge holder. Sadly, the Government also estimates misuse of the blue badge concession could be as high as 20%. This is positive progress as six years ago Leeds Council estimated that 60% of their issued badges were used illegally.

Much of this improvement has been down to the way councils assess and issue badges, the design of the badges themselves and new powers to enforce or seize badges used fraudulently. So why the concern?

Blue badge holders themselves have to deal with the loss of valuable amenity from those who misuse a blue badge. Fraudulently use a badge outside the bank and you deny someone with a real need the opportunity to park within easy access of the entrance leading to frustrating or impossible delays, getting in and out of the vehicle with enough space, navigating crowds, or poorly placed rubbish and other topographical intrigues of our urban pavements. It is not fair or ethical and knowingly taking advantage is just plain wrong.

Another concern is the misuse of public amenities such as pay and display bays. With pressure on Britain’s roads, and more cars than we have space to park on-street, managing what space we have is important.

Parking tariffs balance the cost of a ticket versus demand to ensure both high occupancy and high turnover of vehicles as most shop owners would prefer 12 customers staying 30 minutes over three staying 2 hours. Surely this is not a big deal?

£46 million.

That’s right. That’s how much blue badge fraud costs the UK economy. Money that then has to be found from other budgets at the expense of other services. In some areas, the annual losses from a misused blue badge are £5,000, the equivalent of several freedom passes for the elderly.

So, if you know someone using a badge illegally please ask them to do the right thing and hand it in, if not please consider reporting them to your local council, including the serial number, location, time and date.

We are all responsible for making our communities fairer and safer.

Denise Payne

Denise serves the people of Brighton and Hove as NSL’s Client Account Manager. Her team, along with Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and the police, were recently recognised for their partnership work in reducing blue badge fraud in the region.

Operation Bluebird has already uncovered cheats using the badges of deceased residents, using counterfeit, stolen or photocopied badges, making fraudulent applications and misusing another person’s badge to park for work every day.

The scheme, which won two awards at the British Parking Awards earlier this month, was the first in the country to offer offenders a community resolution order instead of a criminal record which are cheaper and produce much lower reoffending rates.