The Blue Badge scheme – how does it work?

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If you have a disability, you may be able to get a Blue Badge. This lets you use certain on-street parking spaces without having to pay. Find out who can get a Blue Badge and where you can park for free.

The Blue Badge Scheme

You can apply for a Blue Badge if you’re disabled and it affects your mobility. You don’t have to have a physical disability. You can also apply for a Blue Badge if you have a child with a disability.

SAVVY TIP: The person with the illness or disability doesn’t have to drive the car for the Blue Badge to be valid. However, they do need to be in the car on journeys when the badge is used.

Who can get a Blue Badge?

If you receive certain benefits or have certain disabilities, you’re automatically entitled to get a Blue Badge. You are entitled to a Blue Badge if you:

  • Are registered blind
  • Receive the higher mobility element of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Have a score of eight or above in the ‘moving around’ part of your Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment.
  • Get a War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement payment (at tariffs one to eight). You get this if you are unable to walk or find it hard to walk because of your disability.

If you are not blind or don’t receive these benefits, you can still apply for a Blue Badge. In Scotland, you’re eligible for one if you have an illness like dementia, autism, a mental illness or a learning disability.

SAVVY TIP: People with mental illnesses and conditions – so called ‘hidden disabilities’ – will be able to get a Blue Badge in England from August 30th 2019.

How to apply for a Blue Badge

You can only get a Blue Badge from your local council. However, you can apply by post to your council directly or online at the Gov.uk website. 

SAVVY TIP: If you apply online, your application will then be sent to your local council and they will make a decision within 12 weeks.

If you live in Scotland you can apply at myscot.gov The MyScot website has an application guide which you can download.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, you can apply via the NIDirect website. 

SAVVY TIP: There are some other websites that have information about Blue Badges, but they can’t issue them.

This is what you need in order to apply:

  • A recent digital photo showing your head and shoulders, plus
  • A photo or scan of your proof of identity (such as a passport or driving licence)
  • A photo or scan of your proof of address (less than 12 months old)
  • A photo or scan of your proof of benefits (if you get any). If you’re able to get a Blue Badge because of your PIP entitlement, the decision letter must have been issued in the last 12 months.

You’ll also need to know:

  • Your National Insurance number (if you have one)
  • The details of your current Blue Badge (if you’re reapplying).

SAVVY TIP: If you’re turned down for a Blue Badge, your council should tell you why. You can appeal against the decision and you can apply again if your disability or illness gets worse.

How much does the Blue Badge cost?

In England and Northern Ireland, the most councils can charge for a Blue Badge is £10. It’s free in Wales and in Scotland the cost is capped at £20.

Where can you park?

Blue Badges are designed to let you park for free on the street, but the rules do vary from council to council, and it can be confusing. There’s a website called BlueBadgeParking which has an online map of Blue Badge parking spaces. Users contribute to it, so you can add spaces you see or know of that aren’t listed.

  • Yellow lines: You can park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours. You can’t park on yellow lines in off-street car parks.
  • On-street parking meters: You can park for free on the street at pay and display and parking meters.
  • On-street disabled bays: You can park for free and generally for as long as you need to. The bay signs will tell you if free parking is limited.

SAVVY TIP: You can’t generally park on yellow lines where there are loading restrictions, but some councils will also let you park there, but you’ll need to check first. The rules vary from council to council.

The Blue Badge scheme is also recognised across the European Union, but rules on where you can park are likely to vary. I don’t know whether Blue Badges would still be recognised by EU countries after we leave the EU. I imagine it may depend on how we leave.

Car parks

You may not be able to park for free in hospital, supermarket and local authority car parks. However, they should provide disabled parking bays. Most local authorities will let you park for free, but some will not, or may limit the time you can park for free. Out of around 400 local authorities, this is a list of councils that I’m aware of that charge Blue Badge holders to park in their car parks, or have restrictions on how long you can park for.

Blackpool – up to 3 hours free, charges after

Bournemouth – have an interim arrangement where tax exempt vehicles park for free

Braintree

Brighton – some car parks are free. Others are subject to standard tariff

Cambridge – some free, some discounted

Cheshire – up to four hours free, charges after this

Derby

Dorset

East Devon

East Riding

Hastings – up to 3 hours free of charge

Mid Devon – must pay but get an extra hour on top of the paid for period

North Devon

Norwich – some car parks are free, others operate a buy one hour get one hour free to badge holders

Peterborough

South Lakeland

Southend-on-Sea – only people with Blue Badges issued by Southend Council are able to park for free in some council-run car parks.

Torbay – only free to badge holders who receive higher rate mobility payments

Scarborough

West Devon

Woking

Wolverhampton

Worthing

Parking in London

You can get exemption from paying the congestion charge if you have a Blue Badge, but you must register your vehicle with Transport for London first. This costs £10, but you can register up to two cars.

If you’re travelling in central London, you may not be able to use your Blue Badge except in disabled bays. The four London boroughs that have different rules on Blue Badge use are: Camden, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and City of London.

SAVVY TIP: These boroughs provide specific disabled bays instead.

Displaying your Blue Badge

You must always display the Blue Badge in order to park for free. Put the Blue Badge on the car’s dashboard with the hologram side up (photo side face down). If there’s a time limit to your parking, you must set the cardboard dial ‘clock’ on your Blue Badge to the quarter hour slot showing when you arrived.

Penalties for using your Blue Badge incorrectly

Only you or someone driving you can use the Blue Badge. Police officers, traffic wardens and parking attendants can inspect the badge. If you don’t let them inspect it, you could be fined up to £1,000. If you park in a space where Blue Badge parking isn’t free, you’re likely to get a penalty notice.

Renewing your Blue Badge

You have to reapply for your Blue Badge every three years. You also have to reapply if you stop getting benefits that entitled you to the badge in the first place. If your health condition improves and you don’t need the badge anymore, you should hand it back to the council.

SAVVY TIP: If you lose your badge or it’s stolen, you can apply for a replacement. Do this via the Gov.uk website

Useful links:

You can find out more about your rights when you have a Blue Badge and what you have to do, in this downloadable booklet – available from the Gov.uk website.

Related articles: 

Council tax discount and dementia

What is Carer’s Allowance and who gets it?

How to sort out the finances of an elderly parent

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