Blue badge parking: Fewer East Sussex people using scheme which is being extended to those with hidden disabilities this year
The number of parking badges for people with disabilities has gone down in East Sussex in the past 12 months.
There are 22,373 people with a blue badge, according to the latest figures from the Department of Transport, compared to 22,547 in 2017.
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That is four per cent of the population, lower than the rate for the whole of England, which is 4.2 per cent.
Across the country, 2.35 million badges have been given out by local authorities to people with disabilities or individuals and organisations concerned with their care.
The badges, which are valid for three years, allow the holders to park closer to their destination and remain for longer.
Blue badges can be issued automatically to some people, such as those receiving higher levels of disability allowance or registered blind.
Other badges are subject to further assessments.
In East Sussex, in the 12 months to March 2018, 9,202 new badges were issued, 3,502 automatically and 5,656 after a further assessment.
But the data shows just 53 per cent of those automatically eligible for a badge have one.
Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK said a difference in blue badge usage across the country was partly the result of the availability of accessible public transport, with people in rural areas were more dependent on cars.
He said: “The Blue Badge scheme is an important and essential part of ensuring that we, disabled people, can participate and live our lives in society.
“With public transport not universally accessible the use of a car is essential for many. Being able to park closer to the destination is essential for badge holders and can mean the difference between going out or not.”
This year the scheme will be extended to allow people with ‘hidden disabilities’ such as autism and mental health conditions to apply.
In launching the extension, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said: “It is absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.
“We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.”
Mr Mallick said the extension was a welcome change.
He added: “If we are to truly have an inclusive society that works for everyone, the Blue Badge is an essential component of this.”
• Report by Gary Rogers, data reporter