There were 2.57 million Blue Badges in use in England at the end of March last year, or 4.6% of the population - up from 4.1% in 2019 before the Covid pandemic.
The data reveals that in the year ending March 2023, 1.14 million Blue Badges were issued - an increase of more than 100,000 (9.7%) when compared to the previous year.
Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The number of Blue Badges now issued reflects their value to disabled people and their families in enabling them to enjoy anything like the convenience and mobility the rest of us probably take for granted.
"Anyone grumbling about the number of parking spaces reserved for Blue Badge holders or, worse, simply disregarding the rules, would do well to remember that one day it could be them struggling to make everyday trips."
The eligibility criteria for Blue Badges was extended in 2019 to include people with non-visible disabilities, including Parkinson's, dementia, autism and Crohn’s disease. Of the Blue Badges currently held, 3.3% (86,000) belong to people with non-visible disabilities.
Depending on the location, Blue Badge owners are often allowed to park for free in pay-and-display bays, for up to three hours on single and double yellow lines, and in London, holders are exempt from having to pay the congestion charge. The Blue Badge is linked to the disabled person rather than an individual car, so it can be used to park any vehicle that the person with a disability is driving or travelling in as a passenger.
As the latest figures were revealed, it emerged that the DfT has not published prosecution figures for abuse of the Blue Badge system for the second year in a row. People are known to abuse the system by using a Blue Badge that is no longer valid, allowing a friend or relative to use one, or by making a fraudulent application.
Graham Footer, Chief Executive of Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK), said: “The increase in the number of Blue Badges issued is highly likely due to the scheme being extended to people with non-visible disabilities.
“What is most concerning for DMUK is the failure of DfT to publish the prosecution figures for Blue Badge abuse which they used to provide. This is the second consecutive year that DfT have failed to provide the prosecution figures, which is extremely disappointing."
The DfT said the collection of data had been stopped due to the burden on local authorities of providing the statistics.
A spokesperson at the DfT said: “We are deeply concerned by anyone exploiting the Blue Badge scheme – a vital resource to help people with disabilities travel with confidence. We continue to work closely with local authorities to help them tackle fraud and misuse."