The Government has today announced that it is planning to make important changes to Blue Badge rules, which will mean that many autistic people in England will qualify.

This move follows years of campaigning from the National Autistic Society, our supporters, and other disabled people and families across England, including legal challenges against the Government and local authorities.

Existing rules are too focused on people’s physical ability to walk, and changes to Government guidance in 2014 meant that autistic people found it too hard to get a Blue Badge. For many people, this meant they weren’t able to go out and about and could become socially isolated. Earlier this year, the Government consulted on proposals that would widen access to Blue Badges for people with many non-physical disabilities, including autistic people. We asked you to show your support for this proposal, and the Government heard you!

What do the new rules mean?

Under the new rules, there will be two important new ways that autistic people may qualify for a Blue Badge:

  • If you can’t undertake a journey without being at risk of serious harm, it causing “very considerable psychological distress”, or if you have very considerable difficulty when walking; or
  • If you have scored 10 points for PIP Mobility Component for “planning and making a journey” because making a journey causes ‘overwhelming psychological distress’ (we are seeking clarification about the exact meaning of this with the Government.) 

Children who get Higher Rate Mobility Disability Living Allowance (HRMDLA) will also continue to qualify, as before. 

A Blue Badge can be a lifeline for some autistic people and their families. It can be the difference between going to the shops and getting around, or being stuck at home unable to be a part of their community.

When will the changes happen?

The changes will need to go through Parliament before they come into force, which will take some time. We should receive an update when Parliament returns in the autumn. We expect that the changes will come into force in 2019. 

We will keep our website updated with more information when it is available.

Reaction

At the National Autistic Society, we welcome these changes and the difference they could make to the lives of autistic people in England. We hope that the Government will bring forward the changes to the law that are needed quickly, and tell all councils and local decision makers about their new duties. 

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: "Today's Blue Badge announcement will make a massive difference to the lives of many autistic people and their families across England. 

"Just leaving the house is a challenge for many of the 600,000 autistic people in England, involving detailed preparation – and sometimes overwhelming anxiety about plans going wrong. Some autistic people might not be aware of the dangers of the road or become overwhelmed by busy or loud environments. The possibility of not being able to find a parking space near where you’re going can mean you can’t contemplate leaving the house at all. A Blue Badge will be a lifeline and prevent a life of isolation.

"The existing rules are too focused on people’s physical ability to walk and meant many autistic people didn’t qualify, reducing their independence.

"The National Autistic Society and our supporters have been raising this issue with the Government for many years. We're thrilled that they have listened to the concerns of autistic people and their families and put this right by taking into account their needs for certainty and safety.

"It's vital that these changes are implemented fully and quickly, and that all decisions about whether someone is entitled to a Blue Badge are taken by people who understand autism."


The Transport Minister, Jesse Norman MP, said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.

“The changes we have announced today will ensure that this scheme is extended equally to people with hidden disabilities so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.”

Hayley and Noah's story


Hayley lives in Surrey with her four-year-old son Noah and is a member of our Surrey branch. She applied for a Blue Badge earlier this year but was refused.
 
Hayley said: "Noah is oblivious to danger, which can make even short walks from the car really difficult. If he manages to run ahead of me, he will often try to run straight ahead regardless of whether there's a busy road in front of him. It's a constant worry. 
 
“He also has a high level of anxiety and is very resistant to change. If something unexpected happens when we're out, like us being forced to take a different route to town, he can get very upset and lose all control and sometimes be unable to move. It impossible for me to carry him as he is nearly five now and I also have his two year old sister in a buggy to consider. It would be safer for us at that point to get him back to the car as quickly as possible.

“There are places we have to avoid during school holidays and at weekends, like busy parks where there is a high demand for parking and a long walk to the entrance.
 
"A blue badge would transform our lives. Parking closer to our destination would make our journeys so much safer and would mean we can leave more quickly, if Noah does become overwhelmed. We'd be able to go and about out so much more, and ultimately have a better quality of life."


Hayley’s husband Tom is completing the 100km Thames Path Challenge for our charity and has raised almost £5,000 so far. Find out more on his JustGiving page.

Further information

The changes won’t come in immediately, as the rule changes need to be approved by Parliament. If you are in the process of applying for a Blue Badge at the moment and you need advice, you can find information on our website. We will update our website with more information when it is available.

In Scotland and Wales, thanks to our campaigning, eligibility criteria already takes into account some of the barriers autistic people can face getting around. We urge Northern Ireland to follow and replicate these changes. Follow the hyperlinks to find out more about information on Blue Badge eligibility in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


This story was updated on 31 July, to reference legal challenges.