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Announced by the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, people with less visible disabilities are set to benefit from the biggest change in the Blue Badge scheme in 50 years.

People with hidden disabilities will be able to access Blue Badge parking permits once the criteria comes into place on the 30th of August 2019, due to the rollout of new guidance issued by the UK Government.

The Blue Badge scheme helps individuals with severe mobility problems who have difficulty using public transport to park close to where they need to go.

For drivers or passengers with dementia, anxiety disorders or reduced mobility, the anticipation of travel difficulties, such as finding a parking space, can build on top of the stress of the journey itself.

The new guidance will support people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and other amenities. It will also help combat loneliness by enabling them to stay connected to family and friends.

The review will look at ensuring Blue Badges are used correctly and improving public understanding so that those with hidden disabilities can use the badges with confidence.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.

“Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.”

To help councils with the expected influx of applications, the Department for Transport has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7 million in the first year of the programme.

The Department for Transport has been working with specialists to expand the eligibility criteria for the badges, which will now include people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, commented: “The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England – helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted.

“Just leaving the house is incredibly difficult for many autistic people – and involves detailed preparation. Some autistic people have no concept of the dangers of the road while others are so anxious about plans going wrong, like not being able to find a parking space, that they don’t go out at all. Having a Blue Badge will be life-changing and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.”

While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-physical disabilities will qualify for a badge, notes the Department for Transport; it will be up to the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria.

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