The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council followed the correct process, in line with government guidance, to decide a Blue Badge application.
- The complainant, who I will call Ms B, says the Council failed to properly assess her granddaughter (Ms C’s) application for a Blue Badge. The Council refused Ms C’s application. Ms C gave up her job, as did not feel able to continue without a Blue Badge enabling her to park close to the buildings she needed to visit. Ms C suffered severe depression and took an overdose.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered:
- Information provided by Ms B, and discussed the complaint with her.
- Information provided by the Council, in response to my enquiries.
- The ‘Blue Badge Scheme Local Authority Guidance (England)’ issued by the Department for Transport in October 2014.
- Responses to a draft of this statement.
What I found
- The Disabled Persons’ Parking Badge Scheme (Blue Badge) provides a national arrangement of on-street parking concessions for severely disabled people.
- The Blue Badge scheme is for people with severe mobility problems. It allows Blue Badge holders to park close to where they need to go. The scheme operates throughout the UK and is managed by local authorities, who deal with applications and issue Blue Badges.
- To be eligible for a Blue Badge without further assessment the applicant must be more than two years old and:
- Receive the Higher Rate of the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance; or
- Be registered blind; or
- Receive a War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement.
- Drive a vehicle regularly, have a severe disability in both arms, and be unable to operate, or have considerable difficulty in operating, all or some types of parking meter; or
- Is unable to walk or have considerable difficulty in walking because of a permanent and substantial disability.
- Ms C applied for a Blue Badge, she was not automatically eligible so the Council asked her to attend a mobility assessment. An Occupational Therapist (OT) completed the assessment. The applicant needs to show that because of their permanent and substantial disability, they cannot walk very far without experiencing severe difficulty. Several factors may be relevant to decide this, government guidance gives advice on what to consider.
- Ms B confirms she told the OT about her medical condition and how she is affected. Ms B explained the day of the assessment was a good day for her, but on other days she would not have been able to attend the assessment as she cannot walk or stand on those days. Ms B explained her constant pain levels and how they are made worse by walking.
- The guidance says an applicant may be deemed eligible if they can walk 30-80 metres without pain or breathlessness, but demonstrate very considerable difficulty in walking through a combination of other factors.
- The OT saw Ms B walk indoors and outdoors, and on a flat surface and a slope. The OT saw Ms B walk on an uneven surface and negotiate a step. Ms B walked more than 80 metres. Ms B walked very slowly, was hesitant, and had some fatigue and discomfort. Ms B used a walking aid. Ms B showed no signs of being out of breath; she could walk and talk despite her pain.
- The OT considered all the factors suggested in the government guidance. The OT recommended the Council did not issue a Blue Badge, because although Ms B has a permanent and substantial disability she was able to walk around 145 metres without severe difficulty.
- Ms B complained, and sent a photograph showing her swollen foot following the assessment. The guidance says it does not matter whether excessive pain occurs at the time of walking, or later. What counts is that it is a direct result of their attempt to walk.
- The Council considered the information Ms B gave, including the photograph. The Council reviewed Ms B’s application for a Blue Badge, considering all information it had. The Council decided Ms B was not eligible as she could walk a considerable distance on the day of the assessment. The Council commented that on the day of the assessment Ms B used one crutch; she was prescribed two and therefore it expected her mobility would improve with the use of the second crutch. The Council invited Ms B to send any new medical information for consideration. Ms C says they sent a letter from Ms B’s GP, but I have no evidence of this. The Council says it received nothing further.
Was there fault causing injustice?
- The Ombudsman cannot decide whether Ms B is eligible for a Blue Badge, I must consider whether the Council followed the correct process to reach its decision.
- The Council completed a mobility assessment, which was in line with government guidance. The Council considered the information Ms B provided and invited her to send any further medical evidence.
- Ms B queries how much consideration the Council gave to her application, given it issued its decision three days after the mobility assessment. The mobility assessment would carry much weight in the decision making. Once the results of that were known, I would not expect it to take long for the Council to decide the application. The timescale is not evidence of fault.
- As there was no fault in the Council’s process, I cannot criticise its decision, even though Ms B disagrees with it.
- The Council invited medical evidence but did not receive it. Ms B should send the Council her GP evidence and any other medical evidence she may wish to send. The Council should consider whether any new evidence changes its decision.
- I have completed my investigation on the basis there is no fault by the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman