For millions of people with mobility issues, having a Blue Badge makes parking near where they want to go far easier when travelling by car or in a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV). But how do you qualify for a Blue Badge? Here we take you through everything you need to know about the Blue Badge Parking Scheme and point you to the websites where you can get more information and apply for a Blue Badge of your own.
The Blue Badge Scheme is one of the most useful services available to UK drivers and passengers with a disability. It’s a bargain-priced, wallet-sized magic ticket that helps people with seriously impaired mobility or a hidden disability park closer to their destinations on our congested streets. For many people, qualifying for a Blue Badge makes the difference between being able to live the life they want to live or not. It’s a powerful document.
The Scheme, administered through local councils, has been in operation since 2000 and around 2.3 million Blue Badges have been issued in England alone – equating to 4.1% of the population.
Where you can park your car when you display a Blue Badge permit varies across the country.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a Blue Badge permit holder can park their vehicle for free on single or double yellow lines for a maximum of 3 hours (except where there are restrictions on loading and unloading). In Scotland there is currently no time limit.
People with a disability who have been issued with a Blue Badge can usually also park for free and with no time limit where there are on-street parking meters and in disabled parking bays.
Never assume that you can always park for free just because you qualified for a Blue Badge!
Different rules apply to off-street private car parks (such as those provided by hospitals or shopping centres). Blue Badge parking concessions are not applicable to privately owned roads.
Always remember to double check the local signage (because time and other restrictions often apply), the parking rules on Red Routes (especially in busy parts of central London) and try to make sure you don’t park your vehicle in an area that could endanger yourself, pedestrians, or other road users.
This useful online Government website tool lets you check the local council's rules by simply inputting a postcode.
The criteria for qualification can be complex. Eligibility changes that came into force in 2019 mean that more people with non-visible disabilities now qualify for a Blue Badge. With the 2019 changes, two qualification paths became available:
For up-to-date qualifying criteria and to apply for (or renew) a Blue Badge, we recommend visiting the government websites for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We recommend visiting your relevant government website Blue Badge page to get detailed advice on the local criteria for qualifying for a Blue Badge.
As of 2021, the following links apply for the four UK governments:
These links will direct you to the right page on your local council’s website, where you will be able to apply for the Blue Badge scheme.
Qualifying for a Blue Badge in England without further assessment requires that applicants are over two years old and meet one or more of the following criteria:
Broadly similar qualifying criteria apply to applicants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in one of these countries, you should refer to the applicable government website for further information.
In England, if you don’t receive qualifying benefits you can still apply for a Blue Badge along a ‘with further assessment’ qualification route. This also applies if you’ve lost your DLA in a PIP reassessment or didn’t get the number of points needed. Again, similar assessment criteria apply elsewhere in the UK.
Having met the required eligibility criteria, you can apply and pay for your Blue Badge. The modest cost will vary depending on your location. In England and Northern Ireland a Blue Badge currently costs £10. In Scotland the cost is £20, while applicants in Wales currently get their badges free of charge. As soon as it arrives (usually after 3 - 8 weeks) you can start using it to park.
In most cases Blue Badge validity is three years, which makes the small fee a great investment for better mobility and quality of life.
After three years you'll have to reapply for a Blue Badge. Make sure you do it well before your current one expires.
Working through the qualification criteria and applying for the Blue Badge Scheme can seem onerous. However, please bear in mind that the qualification process is there to make sure that Blue Badges are only allocated to recipients who really need their benefit.
The theft of disabled Blue Badge parking permits is a huge issue in this country. The criminals who steal permits (and people who use a stolen parking permit) are robbing people with a genuine disability of a vital lifeline.
Blue Badge theft is not a victimless crime. The prospect of being without a parking permit means someone with a disability has to try and park without their Blue Badge and spend time and money organising a replacement (which could take up to 8 weeks to arrive). A Blue Badge holder that you can lock to the steering wheel of your vehicle is a great way to keep a Blue Badge safe and deter passing thieves.
Having reached the end of the process and bought your badge, always remember to use it in the right places. Make sure to display it correctly (hologram facing outwards) too. And never let it be used improperly – or by anyone who isn’t entitled to its benefits.
A new world of parking freedom and mobility awaits – you can even use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries!
You can use the UK Government website to find out which countries accept it, and any specific rules.