Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Further to my letter to Members of 3 February, I am writing to provide an update in respect of rapid review of the Blue Badge scheme that I have commissioned now that the work has concluded.
The Blue Badge scheme continues to provide access to services and facilities for approximately 7% of the population in Wales compared to England and Scotland where less than 5% of the population have Blue Badges. In Wales eligibility criteria is slightly wider than in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and is distinct in Wales that it leads the way to allow people with cognitive impairments to access the Scheme.
Local authorities are responsible for administering the Blue Badge scheme in their areas using statutory eligibility criteria. They are supported by non statutory guidance from Welsh Government and a Toolkit to assist in verifying applications. The Toolkit uses evidence provided by applicants and does not expect local authorities to make medical decisions.
The rapid review identified that both England and Scotland have already removed GPs from the assessment process and use independent medical assessment within the process. The Welsh Government has encouraged local authorities in Wales to remove GPs from the assessment process , their workloads are extremely heavy and using them to support the administration of the scheme is not the best use of their time.
I have received a large number of queries and requests from Assembly Members and members of the public who have been disappointed when their application for a Badge has been turned down. I have been very concerned by this issue and as a part of the rapid review, commissioned the Independent Advisory Service to review declined applications on the sample area of Swansea. It has identified issues associated with the use of medical assessment and also identified areas where the Toolkit could be further refined to assist in such cases.
The Scheme must maintain its credibility and meet the needs of those people who would otherwise be unable to access services and facilities. I have therefore decided to convene a task and finish group to consider the issues and provide me with recommendations on how the scheme may be revised to ensure those who are in need have access to the service.
I will provide Members with further information on the Membership, scope and terms of reference of the group and it may be necessary to update Members during the Easter recess.