The decision was announced by the Liberal Democrat transport minister, Norman Baker, as he published the government’s response to a consultation on future eligibility for the blue badge scheme.
The consultation asked for views on which disabled people should be automatically eligible for a blue badge when working-age DLA is replaced by the new personal independence payment (PIP).
Baker said the government had decided that automatic eligibility should be linked to PIP, in a similar way to its current link to DLA.
Only about one third of all blue badges are currently issued automatically to people who receive the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA, with most applying instead to their local authority.
Baker said there would be automatic eligibility for a blue badge for anyone who scored at least eight points when tested on the “moving around” activity of the PIP assessment, which should be awarded for claimants who cannot walk further than about 50 metres.
This will mean that some people who are not awarded the PIP enhanced mobility rate will still qualify automatically for a badge, while others who have major problems planning and following a journey and are therefore awarded the enhanced rate – such as many people with autism or mental health conditions – will not automatically be entitled to a blue badge.
Ministers decided that it was “not possible” to extend the scheme to such groups, “given the costs that would be involved and the impact on existing badge holders”.
Those who do not qualify automatically for a blue badge will still be able to apply to their local authority under the “further assessment” procedure, although new guidance for councils has not yet been published.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has so far been unable to say how many disabled people currently hold a blue badge, and what is likely to happen to that number after the proposed changes.
But Baker told MPs in a written statement that the changes would ensure blue badge eligibility was “as similar to the current scheme as possible”.
Most councils that took part in the consultation said they thought the badge should not be available to people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties who were able to walk (69 per cent), while most disability groups (80 per cent) who responded to the consultation said they should be eligible.
But a majority of disability groups (64 per cent) also said they believed the scheme should be “targeted” at people who were “unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty walking”.
Disabled Motoring UK said it was “very pleased” with Baker’s decision, which it said “mirrored” its own response to the consultation.
But the mental health charity Mind said it was “disappointed” with the decision not to extend automatic eligibility to people with mental health conditions.
Tom Pollard, Mind’s senior policy and campaigns officer, said: “Mind believes that people who have severe issues getting around due to mental health problems could benefit from access to blue badges.”
31 January 2013