'It's ridiculous': Elderly couple who struggle to walk lose disabled parking badges

The decision has left the couple struggling to go to the shops.
The decision has left the couple struggling to go to the shops.

An elderly couple who struggle to walk have each had their applications to renew their disabled parking badges refused.

The man and woman, who are 72 and 71 years old respectively, have been entitled to blue badges since the early 2000s.

The couple said the decision was "ridiculous".

The couple said the decision was "ridiculous".

The grandparents did not want to be named, but the man has osteo-arthritis - a degenerative condition - and he now has serious difficulty walking more than 50 yards a time.

The woman suffered a fractured spine in 1999, and has similar trouble with her mobility as a result.

The couple, who are from Hemsworth, believe that relatively recent government guidance has hindered their applications, even though they were granted a renewed blue badge after it came into practice in 2015.

Their local councillor, who's taken up the case, said he was "incensed" by the matter.

The blue badge scheme is being widened by the government this year to include so-called "hidden" disabilities, including autism.

The blue badge scheme is being widened by the government this year to include so-called "hidden" disabilities, including autism.

And the woman said: "It has had a huge impact on our day-to-day lives. You really don't realise how much you miss a disabled badge until you've lost.

"Whenever we're walking somewhere we bench hop. My husband can walk about 50 yards and then we'll sit down again.

"We've worked all of our lives, and we've never claimed any benefits.

"We only want the badge so we can park in a disabled bay and that's it. My husband really struggles getting in and out of a car, and so we need plenty of space to do that.

Hemsworth councillor Ian Womersley has taken on the couple's case and said he was "incensed" by the matter.

Hemsworth councillor Ian Womersley has taken on the couple's case and said he was "incensed" by the matter.

"If we go to the supermarket now we find that all the spaces are taken up but the disabled bays are all free.

"It is ridiculous. We're staggered by it."

The grandparents were told that a note from their GP, advising that the man was entitled to a blue badge, was not applicable because they've known him too long, and therefore the advice can't be deemed "neutral".

Instead, they were told to fork out hundreds of pounds for an independent medical assessment if they wanted to appeal.

The woman said that prospect was "obscene".

Both they, and Hemsworth councillor Ian Womersley who's taken up their case, stressed they blamed the government for the problem.

Blue badge applications in the Wakefield district are determined by independent assessors on behalf of the local council.

But Coun Womersley said: "I want to make it clear that I’m not criticising the assessors who made the decision. I’m not qualified to do that. I’m criticising the system that says you can’t appeal without getting another doctor. It could cost you £300 to £400.

"I'm absolutely incensed by this. I've known this couple a very long time and they're good people.

"Osteo-arthritis doesn't get any better."

Coun Womersley intends to write the government minister for disabilities about the case.

He said: "If I have to get on a train to London and take it further, then I will do. I'll take this to the very top."

Gillian Marshall, the council's chief legal officer, said: "We have changed our processes and assessment tools in line with the changes made by the Department for Transport to their guidance and all applications have been assessed in line with that guidance.”

Guidance issued by the Department of Transport said: "The blue badge scheme is administered by local authorities.

"Eligibility is assessed on a case by case basis using guidance that the Department for Transport published in June, prior to the extended eligibility criteria which will come into effect on August 30 2019.

"It is for the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria."

Local Democracy Reporting Service