Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
I have been considering how the Blue Badge scheme operates and have made a number of changes as a result of amendments to the Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
Eligibility for a Blue Badge was previously extended to include people who have cognitive impairments and receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) at the highest level for the mobility activity ‘Planning and Following a Journey’. The revised Regulations, which will become effective on 15 December, 2014, will include people who would receive PIP at that level but are not of working age and therefore unable to apply for PIP.
These changes reflect our policy to extend eligibility, where justified and while balancing the interests of existing Blue Badge holders.
It is a matter for each local authority in Wales to administer the Blue Badge scheme in their respective areas. It is important, however, that the scheme is delivered consistently across Wales and to the highest possible standard.
Alongside broadening eligibility where appropriate, my aim is that all applicants for a Blue Badge should be treated fairly and consistently regardless of which local authority area they live in. It Is certainly not the intention that anyone who meets the eligibility criteria should be denied access to a Badge.
Further steps that will support this drive for fairness and consistency includes the publication of new supporting guidance for local authorities on the administration of the Scheme. This will complement the Toolkit which has been provided to Local Authorities to assist them when processing applications.
I have also put in place an Independent Advisory Service for the small number of cases where local authority staff may require additional advice when considering applications. Further information about this Service and how it will operate will be published on the Welsh Government website in due course.
While these steps will support greater consistency, it is clear that issues remain with implementation. I have therefore asked my officials to conduct a rapid review of current delivery of the scheme, informed by practice in other parts of the UK. I will provide an update on the outcome of this work and next steps in the new year.