As 2.57m now have a blue badge, what are the rules and eligibility?

More than one in 22 people in England now have a disabled parking badge, a higher proportion than before the Covid pandemic.

There were 2.57 million valid blue badges at the end of March last year, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data, which is 4.6% of the population - up from 4.1% in 2019.

In the year ending March 2023, 1.14 million badges were issued - an increase of more than 100,000 (9.7%) on the previous year - analysis of Department for Transport (DfT) data by the PA news agency and the RAC Foundation found.

The eligibility criteria for blue badges was extended in 2019 to include people with non-visible disabilities such as Parkinson's, dementia and epilepsy.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: "The number of blue badges now issued reflects their value to disabled people and their families in enabling them to enjoy anything like the convenience and mobility the rest of us probably take for granted. Anyone grumbling about the number of parking spaces reserved for blue badge holders or, worse, simply disregarding the rules, would do well to remember that one day it could be them struggling to make everyday trips."

But what is a blue badge, and who is entitled to one? Yahoo News UK explores:-

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What is a Blue Badge?

Blue badges, which must be renewed every three years, help people with disabilities or health conditions access shops and services by enabling them to park closer to their destination.

If you're disabled or have a health condition that affects your mobility, you can apply for a Blue Badge. You can also apply for a badge if you care for someone who is disabled or has a health condition that affects their mobility.

What does it entitle you to?

A blue badge entitles you to park in places other drivers can't, such as designated parking spaces for blue badge holders.

Depending on the location, they often enable holders to park free of charge in pay-and-display bays and for up to three hours on single and double yellow lines. In London, they exempt holders from having to pay the congestion charge.

The blue badge is linked to the person rather than a specific vehicle, so you can use it with any car. This includes taxis and hire cars that you're driving, or travelling in as a passenger.

Woman's hands holding a Blue Badge parking disc issued in the UK to disabled drivers. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A blue badge is linked to a person, rather than a vehicle. (Stock image: Getty)

How do you get a blue badge?

You can apply for a badge for yourself, on behalf of somebody else or an organisation that transports people that need a Blue Badge.

You can apply for or renew your Blue Badge online on GOV.UK. Some councils also let you apply on a paper form. A Blue Badge costs up to £10 in England and £20 in Scotland. It’s free in Wales. They usually last up to three years.

You have to meet various criteria to automatically qualify for a blue badge, which are all listed on the government website. You may also be eligible for a badge if various conditions apply, including not being able to walk, or finding walking very difficult due to pain, breathlessness or the time it takes, as well as other conditions listed on the government site.

Your local council will decide if you are eligible for a badge and may need evidence to carry out an assessment process. If they decide that you are not eligible and you think that they did not take account of all the facts, you can ask them to consider your application again.

What happens if you use a blue badge fraudulently?

Misuse of a blue badge is a criminal offence and drivers caught misusing a blue badge may face legal action by the relevant council.

Blue badge fraud includes: giving incorrect information on your blue badge application form about your physical/medical condition; altering a badge so it appears to be valid, changing the photo, name or expiry date; using a blue badge without the badge holder present, even if doing things for that person like shopping; or using an expired blue badge.

As the latest blue badge figures were revealed, it emerged that the DfT has not published prosecution figures for abuse of the blue badge system for the second year in a row. Graham Footer, chief executive of charity Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK), said: "This is the second consecutive year that DfT have failed to provide the prosecution figures, which is extremely disappointing."

The DfT said data on prosecutions for misuse of blue badges has not been collected since 2021/22 due to the burden on local authorities from providing the statistics. A spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned by anyone exploiting the blue badge scheme – a vital resource to help people with disabilities travel with confidence. We continue to work closely with local authorities to help them tackle fraud and misuse."