Government makes Blue Badges available to people with hidden illnesses
The UK Government has announced that it is extending its established Blue Badge scheme to people living with hidden illnesses for the very first time.
This marks the biggest overhaul to the initiative since the 1970s, and is likely to provide significant benefits for individuals who have chronic illnesses, as well as people living with dementia and their loved ones.
So what exactly does this extension of the Blue Badge scheme involve and how does it have the potential to improve the lives of hidden illness sufferers and their families?
A welcome extension of the Blue Badge scheme
Until now, people diagnosed with conditions such as autism and chronic pain, and degenerative illnesses such as dementia have often faced difficulties when out and about. Crowded car parks or long walks to and from the car can potentially cause emotional distress or physical pain. Meanwhile, public transport is often not an option for these people either, and walking long distances can be physically impossible.
As a result, it can be a challenge for people with hidden illnesses to enjoy time out of the house with friends or family. This can lead to them becoming isolated, sometimes having an adverse impact on their mental health and general wellbeing.
Therefore, the Government's extension of the Blue Badge scheme is expected to be welcomed by people with hidden illnesses, as well as their loved ones.
Jesse Norman, Transport Minister, commented: "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."
Who will now be eligible for a Blue Badge?
Following an eight-week Government consultation that received more than 6,000 responses from members of the public, Blue Badge eligibility will now be extended to people who cannot undertake a car journey without their own safety or that of others being put at harm - for example, young children with severe autism.
In addition, those who cannot travel without the risk of psychological distress and individuals who experience considerable difficulty walking will also be able to apply for Blue Badges.
The Government believes that as many as 600,000 people with autism could benefit from the extension of the scheme.
Blue Badges will allow people with hidden illnesses to park in disabled car parking spots, which tend to be closer to buildings and away from obstructions, making them more accessible and easier to navigate.
Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, stated: "It's absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.
"We're taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently."
For the families of individuals with hidden illnesses, this will open up a whole host of new opportunities for them, with new places to go to create memories with their loved ones and enjoy quality time together.
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