Find information about other support which may be available to you, such as information about blue badgesconcessionary travel and disabled facilities grants.

Blue badges

The Disabled Persons Parking Badge Scheme allows people who have disabilities various concessions and privileges relating to parking. These include being able to park in disabled bays and on some single and double yellow lines, and fewer restrictions on parking time limits. Badge holders are also exempt from paying the London congestion charge.

The scheme is often referred to as the Blue Badge scheme as this is the colour of the badge that people display on their windscreens.

The scheme operates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the exception of a few London boroughs who only partially recognise the scheme.

The Blue Badge Scheme also operates across Europe, and allows you to make use of the same concessions allowed for the residents of the country you are in. If you are planning to drive in another country, check the parking concessions for that country.

Who issues blue badges?

Though it is a national scheme, blue badges are actually issued by local authorities (councils), or in Northern Ireland by TransportNI. It is the local authority, who also decides on entitlement to the badges.

You can apply for a blue badge by completing an application form, which you get from your local authority online at:

www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge (England and Wales)

www.mygov.scot/apply-blue-badge (Scotland)

www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/apply-or-renew-blue-badge (Northern Ireland).

Local authorities may vary in the way they interpret the eligibility criteria and because of these variations, it is possible that in some areas blue badges are more likely to be granted to autistic people than in others.    

Who is eligible for a blue badge?

Blue badges can be applied for on behalf of a person aged more than 2 years old. If you’re applying on behalf of your child, you’ll need to demonstrate that they will be the main beneficiary of the blue badge.

The eligibility rules vary depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

England

You will qualify for a blue badge without further assessment if at least one of these following points applies:

  • you have been awarded the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
  • you have been awarded 8 or more points in the "moving around" activity of the mobility component of Person Independence Payment
  • you are registered blind
  • you receive a War Pensioner's Mobility Supplement
  • you have been awarded a lump sum under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (tariffs 1-8) and certified as having a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.

You can also qualify, subject to further assessment, if any of these points apply:

  • you have a permanent and substantial disability which means you cannot walk, or have considerable difficulty in walking
  • you drive a vehicle regularly, have a severe disability in both arms and are unable to operate, or have considerable difficulty operating, all or some types of on street parking meter
  • for a child under three who, on account of a condition, must always be accompanied by bulky medical equipment which cannot be carried around with the child without great difficulty, or who, on account of a condition, must always be kept near a motor vehicle so that, if necessary, treatment for that condition can be given in the vehicle or the child can be taken quickly in a vehicle to a place where such treatment can be given.

Wales

You will qualify for a blue badge if any of the above criteria for England apply, but in addition you also qualify if:

  • you have been awarded 12 or more points in the "planning and following a journey" activity of the mobile component of Personal Independence Payment.
  • you have a cognitive impairment that means you cannot plan and follow the route of a familiar journey (further evidence from a health professional is required).

Scotland

The rules are similar to Wales but there is no provision for those who have a cognitive impairment but have not been awarded 12 points or more in the "planning and following a journey" activity of PIP.

In addition you can also qualify if:

  • you are unable to walk or virtually unable to walk because of a temporary but substantial disability which is likely to last for a period of at least 12 months but less than 3 years.
  • you were in receipt of a fixed term award of the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance immediately before being assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). You did not receive the Mobility Component of PIP at 8 points or more for the "Moving Around" activity or 12 points for the "Planning and Following Journeys" activity and you have requested a mandatory reconsideration of that decision with the Department for Work and Pensions within the last year; or
  • you were in receipt of a lifetime or indefinite award of the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance immediately before being assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Pilot Scheme to Extend Eligibility

From 1st April 2016 a 12 month pilot is running across Scotland to extend eligibility for the Blue Badge Scheme to some people who have a diagnosed "mental disorder". The scheme is intended to include "people, who as a result of a diagnosed mental disorder or cognitive impairment, have no awareness of danger from traffic and are likely to compromise their safety, or the safety of others."

To apply under the pilot scheme you must:

  • have a diagnosed 'mental disorder' (as defined in the Mental Health (Care and Treatment)(Scotland) Act 2003). This includes any mental illness, personality disorder or learning disability, and
  • be in receipt of either the higher or middle rate of Disability Living Allowance, the higher or lower rate of Attendance Allowance or have been awarded at least eight points in respect of activities 7,8 and 9 (communicating verbally, reading and understanding signs etc and engaging socially) of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and
  • provide confirmation from a healthcare professional or registered social worker that you have no awareness of danger from traffic and are likely to compromise your safety, or the safety of others.

You must contact your local council for a separate paper application form as you cannot use the usual application form or apply online. If your application is successful you will be awarded a blue badge for a 12 month period. It will be valid for the full 12 months regardless of when, during the pilot period you apply.

Northern Ireland

The rules for Northern Ireland are similar to England except there is no provision if you have been awarded a lump sum under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

Considerable difficulty with walking criteria

If you or your child do not qualify automatically as a result of the benefits you receive, you may still be able to qualify through the other eligibility criteria. Entitlement through these is more subjective and is open to further assessment by your local authority.  

The criterion that is most often used is: "They are unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty in walking because of a permanent and substantial disability."

When looking at a person's eligibility, local authorities use government guidance. They consider whether:

  • you cannot take a single step (and so are "unable to walk")
  • you have considerable difficulties walking outdoors. This includes consideration of the distance, speed, length of time and manner (e.g. gait) in which you make progress on foot and whether you experience pain and/or breathlessness
  • the effort of walking "presents a danger to your life or would be likely to lead to a deterioration in your health. Bear in mind this relates to physical problems only such as serious heart and lung conditions.

Local authorities often interpret all of these criteria as being related to a physical disability. It may be worth mentioning that the view held by many professionals is that autism also has a physical cause because it is a disorder of brain development.

If you are applying for a blue badge under this rule it is important to show how your or your child's behaviour affects the physical and practical ability to walk, taking into account factors which may affect distance, speed, length of time and walking manner.

You might also mention, with reference to the 'considerable difficulty in walking' criterion, any 'refusal episodes' you or your child have had when walking, and point out that the behaviour of autistic people can often be unpredictable.

For example, people on the autism spectrum may be able to handle an activity such as walking to the shops one day and not be able to do it the next because of factors such as anxiety, fear or stress: they may be scared of dogs and have passed one on the street, or they might become distressed by a particular noise and be unable to continue their journey. If it can be demonstrated that these incidents happen on a frequent basis and are a direct result of their disability then you could argue they satisfy the criterion. You can also state how having a blue badge could help you or your child to reduce the likelihood of these incidents happening, as you can stay in a familiar and safe environment (your car) for longer.

Your local authority may seek a medical opinion on your or your child's entitlement to a blue badge if you are applying under the considerable difficulty with walking criteria. This could include, for example, an assessment by a community physiotherapist or occupational therapist. It may be useful to have a letter from your or your child's GP or another health professional supporting your argument.

Appeals

If your application is unsuccessful the local authority should give you a detailed written explanation of the reasons why it was refused. The Department of Transport recommends that local authorities have a review/appeals procedure in place. If you think you have been incorrectly or unfairly refused a blue badge, you can ask for a review of the decision or use the council's complaints procedure. You should explain to your local authority why you believe its decision is wrong. Let them have any evidence to support your case. Support from a disability group, medical or other professional, councillor or MP may help.

You could also complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if you feel there has been maladministration that has caused injustice. This could be if the local authority bases their rejection erroneously on the cause of disability and not the existence or severity of walking.

Eligibility Criteria Review in England

The Government in England has agreed to review the Blue Badge eligibility criteria that has until now made it very difficult for people on the autism spectrum to get a Blue Badge if they do not have a physical disability. We welcome this review but do not know how long it will take.

More information

England

Can I get a Blue Badge? (England)

Blue Badge Scheme Local Authority Guidance (England)

Blue Badge Eligibility Criteria in Wales

Blue Badge Scheme in Wales: Guidance to Local Authorities

The Blue Badge Scheme in Scotland

Blue Badge Scheme Eligibility Criteria (Northern Ireland)

Allowances for different European Countries

Worldwide information: www.disabledmotorists.eu 

Concessionary travel

Concessionary travel is available for people with disabilities of any age throughout the UK. The scheme operates in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is a guide to the travel concessions you may be entitled to.

If you require another person to travel with you when you use public transport, your national entitlement card may allow him or her to travel too. For further information on a companion card contact your local authority.  

England

Since April 2008 the England National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) has provided free off-peak bus travel throughout England for people with disabilities.

Although it is a national scheme, the bus travel passes are administered locally and issued by your local authority, which also decides on entitlement to the passes. In addition, many local authorities offer discretionary bus concessionary travel schemes (under the provisions of the Transport Act 1985). You will need to contact your local authority for information on what is available in your area.

You can apply for travel concession by completing an application form, which you get from your local authority. You can also apply online. Local authorities may vary in the way they interpret the eligibility criteria and because of these variations, it is possible that in some areas concessionary travel passes are more likely to be granted to autistic people than in others.

The criteria for the award of a disabled person's bus travel pass are laid down in national law and are contained in legislation through the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Transport Act 2000. The regulations have been modified in The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007.

The Department of Transport has also issued Guidance for Travel Concession Authorities on the England National Concessionary Travel Scheme.

If you live in London, the concessionary disabled person's pass is called a Freedom Pass and is also valid on the tube, trams, and National Rail.

You will be eligible for a disabled person’s concessionary bus travel pass if one of the following applies:

  • you are blind or partially sighted
  • you are profoundly or severely deaf
  • you are without speech
  • you have a disability, or have suffered an injury that has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on your ability to walk
  • you do not have arms or have a long term loss of the use of both arms
  • you have a learning disability that is a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning
  • you would, if you applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, have your application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act otherwise than on the grounds of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol. 

The Department of Transport has produced guidance for local authorities on assessing eligibility for concessionary bus travel.

Wales 

The concessionary fare bus travel scheme is operated by local authorities for people who are over 60 years old or have disabilities. If eligible, you can use your bus pass for free throughout Wales at any time of the day. If you are eligible for a bus pass but unable to use a bus because of a disability, you may be able to receive passes or travel tokens for other forms of transport. To apply for a concessionary bus pass, contact your local authority.

You will be eligible for a concessionary bus pass if one of the following applies:

  • you are blind or partially sighted
  • you are profoundly or severely deaf
  • you are without speech
  • you have a disability, or have suffered an injury which has a substantial and long term adverse affect on your ability to walk
  • you do not have arms or have long term loss of the use of both arms
  • you have a learning disability that is a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning
  • you would, if you applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, have you application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act otherwise than on the grounds of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol.  

Your local authority may seek medical evidence to support applications in appropriate cases. More information is available on the Welsh Government website.    

Scotland

The current concessionary travel policy is contained in The National Bus Travel Concession Scheme for Older and Disabled Persons (Scotland) Order 2006 Scheme Statutory Instrument: no. 107 and no. 117. If you have a disability or are over the age of 60 you can apply for the National Entitlement Card, which allows free travel on local or Scottish long distance buses. To apply for a National Entitlement card, contact your local authority.

You will be eligible if one of the following applies:

  • you receive the high rate of the mobility component or the high/middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • you receive the standard or enhanced rate of the Personal Independence Payment
  • you receive Attendance Allowance
  • you live in a care home or hospital
  • you have a Blue Badge
  • you are profoundly or severely deaf
  • you are visually impaired (under this route you can also qualify for free train and ferry travel)
  • you have been told not to drive on medical grounds
  • you have a mental illness, learning difficulty or personality disorder that is recognised under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and has lasted for more than 12 months. You must need to travel to health or social care appointments as part of treatment activities, care or a rehabilitation programme. Your ability to travel must also be impaired
  • you have a terminal illness
  • you have a progressive degenerative condition
  • you have lost one or more of your limbs
  • you have been awarded a lump sum under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and certified as having a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking
  • you receive a War Pensioner Mobility Supplement.   

Northern Ireland

If you have a disability, you may be entitled to concessionary bus and train travel within Northern Ireland. You will be entitled to free travel if any of the following applies:

  • you are aged 60 years or over
  • you are registered blind
  • you are a war disablement pensioner
You will be eligible for half fare travel if any one of the following applies:
  • you are in receipt of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance at either the high or low rate and your award must be for at least 12 months
  • you have had a driving licence refused or revoked on medical grounds. You do not have to apply for a driving licence and be refused a driving license to eligible for the concessionary pass
  • you have a learning disability. To qualify for the pass you must also be known to your local Health and Social Care Trust. If you have not had any previous contact with specialist services, you should first approach the Learning Disability Programme within the local Health and Social Care Trust
  • you are partially sighted.

To be eligible for travel concessions, you must apply for and receive a concessionary travel card, called a SmartPass.  

Eligibility for people on the autism spectrum

Many autistic people qualify for concessionary travel on the basis of the following criteria. The quotes below are from the Department of Transport guidance for local authorities

1. Learning Disability

"He or she has a learning disability that is a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning."

"A person with a learning disability has a reduced ability to understand new or complex information, a difficulty in learning new skills, and may be unable to cope independently. These disabilities must have started before adulthood and have a lasting effect on development. The person should be able to qualify for specialist services and he or she may have had special educational provision."

The definition of what constitutes a learning disability for the purposes of obtaining a concessionary pass is quite broad. The Department of Transport gives some guidance to local authorities in England about assessing people under the learning disability criteria and it is possible for some people on the autism spectrum who may not come within social services' definition of a learning disability to apply and qualify under this route.

2. Refusal of driving license on medical grounds

"Would, if he or she applied for the grant of a licence to drive a motor vehicle under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988, have his/her application refused pursuant to section 92 of the Act otherwise than on the grounds of persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol."

Some autistic adults would be refused a driving licence because of the way they are affected by autism. The guidance specifically states that you do not have to apply for a driving licence and be refused to get a bus pass. The guidance gives the following information about who might fit the above category.

Under Section 92 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 the Secretary of State may refuse to issue a driving licence on the grounds of the applicant's medical fitness. Those who are currently barred from holding a licence are people with:

i. epilepsy (unless it is of a type which does not pose a danger - see below)

v. other disabilities which are likely to cause the driving of vehicles by them to be a source of danger to the public" (paragraph 54).

There are a number of categories of "severe mental disorder" under which people may qualify. Authorities will need to assess individuals on a case-by-case basis, as eligibility may depend on the severity of the condition. Such conditions include (but are not limited to) dementia (or any organic brain syndrome); behaviour disorders (including post head injury syndrome and Non-Epileptic Seizure Disorder); and personality disorders” (paragraph 58).  

3. Considerable difficulty with walking criteria

Eligibility under this criteria will be automatic if you receive the high rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance or the War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement, and the award of benefit is (or is likely to be) for a period of more than 12 months.

If you do not automatically qualify, then entitlement through this route is more subjective and is open to further assessment by your local authority. Your local authority may seek a medical opinion. This could include, for example, an assessment by a community physiotherapist or occupational therapist.

Passes will usually be issued to a person whose difficulty with walking is comparable to that required to claim the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, ie

  • they cannot walk, or
  • they are virtually unable to walk, taking into account factors such as distance, speed, length of time and manner of walking before the onset of severe discomfort, or
  • the exertion required to walk would "constitute a danger to their life or would be likely to lead to a serious deterioration in their health". This criterion is intended for people with serious chest, lung or heart conditions.    

Appeals

The concessionary bus passes are administered by the local authority, so you should use their complaints process if you disagree with their decision. You should explain to your local authority why you believe its decision is wrong. Let them have any evidence to support your case. Support from a disability group, medical or other professional, councillor or MP may help. 

You could also complain to the Ombudsman if you feel there has been maladministration that has caused injustice. This could be if the local authority bases their rejection erroneously on the cause of disability and not the existence or severity of walking.

Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/buspass 

Disabled Facilities Grants

Disabled Facilities Grants are grants provided by your local council to help meet the cost of adapting a property or making changes in your home for the needs of a disabled person. The scheme operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 is the main legislation for Disabled Facilities Grants. The grant scheme in Scotland is detailed separately towards the end of this guide.

Who is eligible?

You can apply for a DFG if you are:
  • an owner occupier
  • a private, council or housing association tenant
  • a landlord with a disabled tenant and there is a person with a disability in your home.

You will be treated as disabled if one of the following applies:

  • your sight, hearing or speech is substantially impaired
  • you have a mental disorder or impairment of any kind
  • you are physically substantially disabled by an illness, injury, impairment present since birth, or otherwise you are registered (or could be registered) disabled with the social services department.

What can I get a grant for?

You can get a grant to improve the home of the person with the disability. You must show how extra space or adaptations for an autistic person will help to better meet the needs of the disabled person and the safety needs of other family members such as siblings. A Disabled Facilities Grant could be used for many adaptations including:

You can get a grant to improve the home of the person with the disability. You must show how extra space or adaptations for an autistic person will help to better meet the needs of the disabled person and the safety needs of other family members such as siblings. A Disabled Facilities Grant could be used for many adaptations including:
  • adaptations to make your home safe for the disabled person or others living with them, for adapting a bedroom to make it a safe place to leave them unattended during the night
  • adaptations to enable easier access to and from the property, for example widening doors and/or installing ramps
  • adaptations to have easier access to a room in which there is a toilet, bath or shower, for example a downstairs bathroom
  • adaptations to have easier access to movement around the home, for example a stair lift
  • adaptations to improve the heating system
  • adaptations to improve and make safe access to and from a garden
  • adaptations to heating, or lighting controls to make them easier to use
  • adaptations to make easier the preparation or cooking of food, for example by enlarging the kitchen or lowering the work tops
  • adaptations to have easier access and movement around the home to enable the disabled person to care for someone dependent on them, who also lives there (such as a child, husband, wife or partner).

Making an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant

A Disabled Facilities Grant is normally paid by your local housing department, or in Northern Ireland your Housing Executive Grants Office, who should provide you with an application form on request.

In order to approve the application the local council must be satisfied the works are "both necessary and appropriate for the needs of the disabled person", and "reasonable and practical" in relation to the property.

In order for the council to check whether the works are necessary and appropriate you will be usually be referred to the Occupational Therapist for an assessment.  You may also wish to gather supporting evidence from health and other professionals. You will usually need two written estimates for the work.

You will also need to make a declaration that the disabled person intends to remain in the property for at least five years after the works have been completed or for a shorter period if there are health problems or other special reasons.

From the date of your formal application there is a six month time limit for your council to give you a decision. You will also need to ensure that you separately get any planning or building approval needed. The council may ask you to employ an architect or surveyor to plan and oversee the work. If you get a grant you could use it towards the cost of their fees.

The actual amount of the DFG that someone can get depends on the income and savings over £6,000 of the disabled person. However, parents' income and savings are not taken into account for adaptations for disabled children under the age of 16, and in some cases, parents' income and savings are ignored for claims for 17-19 year olds.

Depending on your income you may need to contribute towards the cost of works on the property.

The maximum amounts that can be awarded are:

  • up to £30,000 in England
  • up to £36,000 in Wales
  • up to £25,000 in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland the amount is variable – see below for further information.

You should not have any work carried out on the property until your grant is approved, and you will need to ensure that you separately get any planning or building approval needed.

How will I be paid?

If you are awarded a DFG you or your contractor will be paid either by instalments (as the work progresses), or in full (when the work is finished).

The council will agree with you the method of payment and who they will pay once your application has been approved.

What if the grant is not enough?

If your grant is not enough you may contact your local housing department to find out about help available under other housing grant schemes.

Scotland

In Scotland, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (HAS) is the main legislation for financial and practical assistance in the home. Local authorities are allowed to provide grants, loans, subsidised loans, practical assistance and information or advice to home owners for repairs, improvements and adaptations. Local authorities have their own local policies on the assistance they provide, so the help available will vary depending on where you live.

Grants for home owners

If you are a home owner you will be eligible for a grant if the permanent structural adaptations to a house are essential to the disabled person’s assessed needs. A grant must also be provided to meet standard amenities intended to meet the needs of the disabled person, for example a bath or shower, sink or a toilet.

Everyone who qualifies will get 80% of the approved costs covered. If you or someone else who lives in your household receives income related employment and support allowance, income based job seekers allowance, income support or the guarantee credit element of pension credit, then the grant will meet the whole amount of the approved costs.

Your local social work department will decide following an assessment of your needs whether the changes needed to you home meet the requirements for essential work. The assessment will usually be carried out be an occupational therapist and will also consider how urgently you need a grant.

There is no upper limit to the cost of the work, or for the amount of grant which can be given. But your local authority will check that the cost of the work is reasonable.

Grants or loans for tenants

If you are a tenant you can only get a grant or a loan for one of the following:

  • for work which has been your responsibility under your tenancy agreement for at least two years before your application
  • work for the adaptation of a disabled person’s house to make it suitable for their accommodation, welfare or employment
  • for work which is required as a matter of urgency for the health, safety or security of the occupants of a house, including, in particular, work to repair it or provide means of escape from fire or other fire precautions.

What if I am unhappy with the decision?

If you have been prevented from applying for a DFG, or have not received a decision within six months from submitting your application, or are unhappy with the decision you can appeal via the council’s complaints procedure.  If you appeal and are still not happy you can complain to the local government ombudsman.

 

Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/DFG

Last reviewed 06 April 2016