Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced that changes to the Blue Badge Scheme operated by the Department for Regional Development will broaden the eligibility criteria for applicants and make applying for the on-street parking concession even easier in the future.
The familiar Blue Badge, which already provides a wide range of parking concessions for people with severe walking disabilities, and blind people, will change from Friday 1 April.
Following the publication last year of findings of a public consultation process, a number of key recommendations emerged and received wide ranging support from Blue Badge holders and other stakeholders.
Recommendations include extending the eligibility criteria to include children aged two to three years with specific medical conditions; and facilitating the ‘passporting’ of existing benefits such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to support applications. Further developments expected in the comings months will enable applicants to apply on-line, speeding-up the entire application process.
Michelle McIlveen said: “The Blue Badge Scheme is an enormously important aid to mobility for those who need support to do some of the things many others do routinely. The changes I am introducing will offer help to a greater number of people and make the application process easier in the future.
“I am grateful to everyone who responded to the public consultation process and to the many stakeholders who have helped my Department develop the improvements.”
Since it was introduced in 1979 the Department has operated the Blue Badge Scheme at a greatly subsidised rate. As was addressed during the public consultation, to enable the Department to move towards administrative cost recovery the current fee for the provision of a Badge valid for a three year period will increase from £2 to £10. Blue Badge holders will continue to be able to use the concession throughout the UK and while travelling abroad in some European and non-European countries.
Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC) chairperson, G. Max O’Brien, welcoming the changes said: “IMTAC believes that the changes will bring positive improvements for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland. The procedures will also help address some of the issues affecting genuine users, including the misuse and abuse of the Blue Badge.”
Individuals who qualify for a Blue Badge can use it on any vehicle, including taxis and hire cars, in which they are travelling. Vehicles displaying a Blue Badge are exempt from on-street parking charges and a wide range of other parking restrictions.