Following major reforms to the Blue Badge scheme announced earlier this year, seven major supermarket chains have now given their support for the government’s drive to eradicate Blue Badge abuse.
Responding to the concerns of disability groups, Local Transport Minister Norman Baker wrote to all major supermarkets urging them to do what they could to enforce the scheme on their premises. So far Aldi, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Lidl have all responded positively in support of the government’s drive to ensure strict enforcement of the parking bays in their car parks which are privately owned.
Norman Baker said:
Many disabled people and disability groups have told me about the problems they have in finding a disabled bay at supermarkets because of their abuse by people who have no justification for parking in reserved spaces.
I am delighted to have secured the support of the major supermarket groups and to know that they share my view that abuse of Blue Badge parking bays needs to be tackled, protecting customers who rely on such spaces. I hope other large retailers will now follow suit and consider what action they can take to help their Blue Badge customers.
The badges provide a vital lifeline to over 2.5 million disabled people every year by prioritising key parking spaces close to important services. However, rising levels of badge fraud have prevented those who genuinely need to use the parking spaces from doing so.
The seven supermarkets have said that drivers found abusing designated disabled bays will be issued with parking charge notices in some circumstances, alongside other measures including car park patrols, leafleting of vehicles and requests over in-store tannoys.
The major reforms to the Blue Badge scheme announced by Norman Baker earlier this year include a new badge design that is harder to forge, as well as improved enforcement powers for local authorities. However, the scheme does not cover privately owned car parks. The support of supermarkets is therefore an important step in ensuring wider enforcement of the scheme.
Following a competitive procurement exercise, Northgate Public Services and Payne Security have been awarded a contract to help make improvements to the Blue Badge scheme, which will include:
- shared administration between authorities including an online eligibility checker and an online application form available via Directgov, resulting in faster renewals, reduced abuse and operational savings
- a secure central database of all Blue Badges on issue and key information on badge holders that will enable fraud prevention and better enforcement
- secure printing, personalisation and distribution of the new Blue Badge design provided by Northgate’s partner, Payne Security
A Lidl spokesperson said:
At Lidl, we are fully committed to assisting the Department for Transport’s successful implementation and modernisation of the Blue Badge scheme. We will continue our ongoing, effective monitoring of our car parks and enforcement methods to prevent abuse of the disabled parking bays at our stores.
Gwyn Burr, Sainsbury’s Customer Service and Colleague Director, said:
We know the Blue Badge scheme is an issue close to our customers’ hearts. In 2009 we became the first supermarket to actively manage all of the disabled bays within our car parks and this led to a reduction in the misuse of these spaces, a fact recognised by the Baywatch survey last year. We are very pleased to support this campaign.
Mark Gunter, Group Retail Director of Morrison’s, said:
We have always been concerned about the abuse of disabled parking spaces and we will penalise those able-bodied drivers that incorrectly park in spaces allocated for Blue Badge drivers. However, we also depend on the public to help us ensure that these parking bays remain available for disabled drivers.
The new service delivery improvements to the Blue Badge scheme will be operational from 1 January 2012.
The capital costs involved in the development of the system will be funded by Northgate and Payne Security, who will re-coup their investment over the lifetime of the five-year contract via a charge to local authorities per badge issued.
Dave Meaden, Chief Executive of Northgate Public Services said:
The Blue Badge scheme is an essential service for disabled people. We are committed to making it more effective for the millions who rely on it. This innovative programme is focused on enhancing vital local services through preventing abuse, improving delivery and planning for increased demand in the future. In difficult times, it shows that improvements for people really can be achieved through new ways of working and using resources.
Notes to editors
There are 2.55 million badge holders in England and demand is rising significantly in line with the average age of the population - current levels of abuse are high as the financial benefits of having a badge are significant.
Consultations with disabled people, local authorities and other stakeholders have demonstrated a large amount of support for changes to be made to ensure the long term sustainability of the scheme for those who rely on it the most - this includes reforms that will help to ensure a fair allocation of badges, deliver efficiency savings and improve customer services and to tackle and reduce current levels of abuse.
The Blue Badge scheme only applies to on-street parking - private off-street car parks, such as those at supermarkets, are on private land and the charges and conditions of use are essentially a contractual matter between the owner and the motorist.
However, the Equality Act 2010 requires providers of services, including car park operators, to take reasonable steps to ensure disabled people are not substantially disadvantaged compared to non-disabled people, when accessing their services - this has implications for car park operators who may have to demonstrate that, as well as marking out disabled person’s parking spaces, they have taken reasonable steps to ensure that they are available to disabled people.
Amongst the services available from the Blue Badge Improvement Service will be an on-line eligibility checker and an application form - this will enable people to quickly discover whether or not they may be eligible for a Blue Badge and, if they are, to then complete an on-line application form that will be sent through the system to the relevant issuing local authority.
The local authority will make, as now, the decision on whether or not the individual should receive a badge.
Full details of the Blue Badge reforms announced in February.
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