Edinburgh parking: Blue badge fraud boast 'creating harmful false narrative around disabled people'

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A  “harmful false narrative” is being created around disabled people and benefit fraud, an Edinburgh councillor has claimed, after the council “boasted” about catching 16 instances of Blue Badge misuse.

City parking chiefs revealed earlier this month a "citywide crackdown" on Blue Badge fraud had seen 16 tickets issued for "lost, stolen or misused" permits being displayed. Seven cars were also impounded as part of the clampdown aimed at "stopping perpetrators abusing the parking system’ and ‘improving accessibility for those in genuine need of parking spaces".

Thousands of people entitled to a Blue Badge because of their disabilities are not claiming themThousands of people entitled to a Blue Badge because of their disabilities are not claiming them
Thousands of people entitled to a Blue Badge because of their disabilities are not claiming them

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Now a local councillor has said that a bigger issue is the thousands of people in Edinburgh who are eligible for a Blue Badge but haven’t claimed one. Blue Badges entitle those with mobility issues to park free of charge in pay and display and shared use on-street parking bays and on single yellow lines when loading is allowed.

Green councillor Dan Heap said while “condemning misuse of the scheme” the local authority’s attention should be turned toward increasing uptake of Blue Badges.  Figures he obtained from the council and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) estimate there are over 8,000 people across the capital eligible for one but not claiming.

Cllr Heap said he was worried the council “boasting about catching people for misusing Blue Badges” could “play into the harmful false narrative around disabled people and benefit fraud”.

He said: “Whilst it is right that people who are not entitled to them are stopped, under-claiming of Blue Badges is a far bigger issue, with research I have done showing that thousands are not claimed.  The bigger task is to help people are able to access Blue Badges and other entitlements but don’t, and clearly not enough is being done on that.”

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Raising the issue at a full council meeting on Thursday, March 21, he added: “Earlier this month the council boasted about catching 16 people misusing blue badges.  Does the council leader agree with me the council’s priority should be the thousands – not 16, but thousands – of people I’ve estimated who are eligible for blue badges and likely for other entitlements but don’t claim them?”

Responding, council leader Cammy Day said: “I think the efforts the council’s been making to try and catch people who are abusing blue badges is the right thing to do to allow people who need access, accessibility issues, and I’m sure he would support that.  But absolutely we’ll do as much as we can to promote people to access benefits.”   

Cllr Day added the council has increased benefits into Edinburgh residents’ pockets by “around £20m”.  

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “While it’s only a small minority of people that misuse blue badges, there’s still a problem. That’s why I hope the action being taken by our parking and fraud teams sends a clear message – blue badge fraud will not be tolerated.” 

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Cllr Heap said people's failure to claim Blue Badges could because they did not realise they were entitled to one, they feared the application process would be too difficult or they were too embarrassed. But he said they could be losing out on access to the city centre and other places just because they didn't have a badge.

He said the council should be publicising the availability of Blue Badges. "Often the people who are entitled to them will already be in touch with the council in one way or another so it's just about reaching out to them."

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