Tuesday, 24 July 2012
BLUE BADGE CHANGES DUE
ARGYLL and Bute Council’s 4,300 blue badge holders are being alerted to significant changes in the way that applications for the disabled parking permits are assessed. From 1 September the UK government is introducing significant changes to the process for assessing eligibility for a blue badge. The changes will affect customers who are not automatically entitled to a blue badge through qualifying benefits, and who are applying under discretionary criteria such as ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Up to 56 per cent of applications currently fall into this category. At the moment GPs provide medical assessment under discretionary criteria – but from September, independent mobility assessments (IMAs) will be introduced to provide more consistency and objectivity. IMAs must be carried out by qualified practitioners. Customers in Argyll and Bute who require an IMA will now be referred by the council to NHS occupational therapists trained in assessing mobility needs. Initial applications should still be made to Argyll and Bute Council, either in person at a customer service point, by post or online. Only applicants who do not automatically qualify for a blue badge will be referred to the NHS. However, this process may take up to eight weeks if the NHS requires a face to face assessment before making a decision. To ensure that customers will not be left without a badge and to allow for the longer processing time, Argyll and Bute Council is accepting renewal applications up to eight weeks before the expiry date of the existing blue badge. In addition, the council will also accept applications under the existing GP assessment system for badges expiring before 1 October. These applications, completed with GP support, should be submitted before 1 September. All applications submitted after that date must, by law, be assessed under the IMA procedure. There will also be a new appeals system for customers whose application is refused following an IMA. Argyll and Bute Council is writing to all customers whose blue badges expire before 1 October so that they are aware of the new arrangements. There is also information on the council’s website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/bluebadgechanges and within customer service points. Social work and NHS staff will also be able to assist customers with the new process. The blue badge application fee will remain set at £20 and will be refunded if no badge is awarded after assessment.