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London Borough of Newham (21 014 585)

Category : Adult care services > Transport

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 15 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council acknowledged an error in processing Mr X’s application for a blue badge. It apologised to him and awarded him a blue badge. The investigation will be discontinued.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about the way the Council dealt with his application for a blue badge.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information provided by Mr X together with the Council’s response to the complaint and information provided by the Council in response to my enquiries.

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What I found

The Blue Badge scheme

  1. The Blue Badge scheme is to help disabled people with severe mobility problems access goods and services by allowing them to park near their destination. The scheme provides parking concessions for blue badge holders. Councils are responsible for the day-to-day administration and enforcement of the scheme. This includes assessing whether people are eligible for a badge.
  2. In 2014 the Department for Transport (DfT) issued guidance (‘the guidance’) to councils for providing blue badges to disabled people with severe mobility problems. The guidance is non-statutory which means that councils are not legally obliged to adopt it. In practice, however, most councils do follow it.
  3. The guidance says councils must only issue badges to people who satisfy one or more of the criteria set out in legislation. A person is eligible without further assessment if they receive:
  • the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance; or
  • eight points or more under the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment.
  1. A person is eligible subject to further assessment if they:
  • drive a vehicle regularly, have a severe disability in both arms and cannot operate, or have considerable difficulty in operating all or some types of parking metres; or
  • have a permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking.
  1. The guidance says that, where an applicant is eligible subject to further assessment, an independent mobility assessor should undertake a face-to-face assessment of their mobility. The person completing the assessment should have a professional qualification giving them expertise in assessing walking ability. Councils typically employ occupational therapists and physiotherapists to undertake the assessments. The assessor must be independent of the applicant and their treatment and care.
  2. The guidance says applicants who can walk more than 80 metres and do not demonstrate very considerable difficulty in walking through any other factors would not be deemed eligible for a badge.
  3. Having a certain medical condition does not in itself qualify an applicant for a badge. Rather, it is the effect of the condition or disability on the applicant’s ability to walk that is assessed.
  4. The guidance sets out several factors that are relevant in deciding whether an applicant meets the criteria for a blue badge. These include: speed of walking; distance walked; excessive pain; and breathlessness.
  5. The guidance recommends a council should have a review mechanism, which preferably does not involve someone directly involved in the original decision. The Council has an appeal process for applicants who are unhappy with its decision.
  6. New rules came into force on 30 August 2019. These are designed to make it easier for people with problems that are not exclusively linked to the physical act of walking to qualify for a badge.

Key Facts

  1. Mr X is on his thirties. He has physical health problems which impact on his mobility. He applied to the Council for a blue badge on 4 August 2021. The application was refused on 27 September 2021. The Council told Mr X he had not provided sufficient documentation. Mr X submitted an appeal on 12 October 2021. The Council asked Mr X to provide further information by 8 November 2021.
  2. Mr X had difficulty obtaining the required information, so the Council gave him an extension until 19 November 2021. Mr X contacted the council on 18 November 2021 to inform it about an upcoming appointment with his consultant. He then requested a further extension to wait for the letter from the consultant. Mr X requested further extensions on 26 November 2021 & 2 December 2021, as the letter had not arrived.
  3. Mr X sent medical information to the Council on 9 December 2021. The Council says it missed the information. It wrote to Mr X on 30 December 2021 informing him his appeal had been rejected due to the lack of evidence.
  4. On receipt of my enquiries, the Council reviewed the application and appeal and realised there had been an oversight. It contacted Mr X to apologise and to inform him his application has been agreed.
  5. The investigation will now be discontinued.

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Final decision

  1. The investigation will be discontinued. The Council acknowledged an error in processing Mr X’s application for a blue badge. It apologised to him and awarded him a blue badge.
  2. It is on this basis; the complaint will be closed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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