I wonder what proportion of Blue Badge holders are older people and, of those, have the computer skills and mental stamina to apply for a renewal of their Blue Badge for preferential parking? I recently helped an older person apply for a renewal and the following issues came to light:
1. There is no renewal reminder sent. A Blue Badge lasts for three years (a good thing) which makes it hard to remember when to renew. As the application process takes four to six weeks, and many older people rely on their badge for access to shops and hospitals, it is all too easy for someone to suddenly find themselves without a valid badge – with the attendant worries and stress this brings.
2. There is no such process as ‘renewal’. You have to start from scratch, detailing how far you can walk, how fast, with what aids, what operations you’ve had, and when, what medications you take, and how often. The details are obviously needed to judge a person’s eligibility but why insist on taking the person through all this again – itself quite a distressing experience?
3. Considerable computer skills are needed to apply online. Although there is a telephone line, you are advised to apply online for the quickest response. This involves the normal filling of on-screen forms, but also uploading a recent photo, scanning identity documents and authorising electronic payment. Whilst many are familiar with these processes, many older people are not: it is not just a case of ‘look on the internet’.
It’s clear that a Blue Badge is a valuable asset and can command a high price on the black market. I understand that fraud is a real issue and so do support e.g. a person having to provide their GP’s details for verification of their condition.
However, I do have some suggestions for improvement:
- send a renewal notice, by post, at least 2 months before a badge is to expire, giving the person time to apply for a new badge in comfort.
- add a ‘renewal’ button to the online form which gives you the chance to verify that your conditions have not improved since your last successful application.
For most, these badges are necessary to being able to participate fully in their community. Another older person I know of had not renewed their Blue Badge because they ‘simply couldn’t go through all that again’: I worry about how much that has curtailed their activity and affected their health and wellbeing.