Thousands of Blue Badge parking permit holders who suffer from an anxiety or mental health disorder are set to lose out when the government introduces new eligibility criteria this year as part of its welfare reforms.
One of the country’s leading mental health charities, Anxiety UK, has said it is “disappointed” with the decision and has accused the government of “empty rhetoric” in its approach to mental health.
The decision to limit access to the Blue Badge scheme was announced by Transport Minister Norman Baker MP at the end of January.
His decision comes after an extensive consultation exercise to bring the scheme in line with the introduction of Personal Independent Payment (PIP) for 16-64 year olds on or after 8 April 2013.
The consultation asked if the Blue Badge scheme should be available for people with a mental health condition, intellectual or cognitive impairment but who are able to walk.
The question received overwhelming support from the majority of responders with 63 per cent agreeing although one category – local authorities – were not in favour with 69 per cent opposing the proposal.
Anxiety UK says the government has not only ignored the views of the majority of respondents to the consultation but also its own stance on mental health.
Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK said: “It is extremely disappointing that despite receiving significant support for the scheme to include those with anxiety, mental health, intellectual and cognitive impairments that the government has not done so.
“When the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined the Daily Express’ ‘Crusade for Better Mental Health’ he talked about how mental health should be treated with the same seriousness as physical health and how the government was going to make this a priority for the future.
“It would appear his words were more empty rhetoric.
“The response from the DoT makes it very clear when they say ‘Ministers have decided that it is not possible to extend the scheme, given the costs that would be involved’ that this is a decision driven by cost cutting priorities.
“It is a huge shame that people suffering from severe anxiety and other mental health problems are losing out once again despite previous reassurances.
“We will continue to lobby and campaign on behalf of those who will be affected by this to make sure their voice is heard,” Ms Lidbetter added.
The full statement from Norman Baker MP can be read here
The full response can be viewed here
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