London council reviews Blue Badge assessment process following Ombudsman complaint

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has agreed to review the way it assesses applications for the disabled ‘Blue Badge’ parking scheme after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found numerous failings in the way the council was running the scheme.

A complaint about the way an application was rejected by the council was raised with the Ombudsman by a man who has hearing impairment, after the council did not review his application when he asked.

Under recent legislation, some applicants will qualify automatically for a Blue Badge. When an applicant is not automatically eligible, councils must further assess the applicant’s individual circumstances and decide if they qualify for a Badge. The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council appeared to reject the man’s application purely because he did not automatically qualify. It also refused to review its decision and failed to offer him a right of appeal.

When the Ombudsman tried to investigate the complaint, it found the council had already deleted the man’s records, meaning it could not explain if it had gone on to assess the man’s individual circumstances after rejecting him for not automatically qualifying. It then failed to give him a detailed explanation for why it rejected both his application and his request for a review. The council also failed to have an appeals process which the legislation requires.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“While I cannot say whether the man should have been awarded a Blue Badge, I have found the council did not consider his application properly.

“The problems highlighted in my investigation suggest there may be other people in the borough similarly  affected, so I have asked the council to invite anyone it has rejected over the past six months to submit their applications for reassessment.

“I am pleased the council has readily accepted my other recommendations to improve its Blue Badge process, and hope this means other people will not be left uncertain about their application in future.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the man and re-assess his eligibility for a Blue Badge.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review its procedures to make sure it is assessing Blue Badge applications properly. It will also carry out training for relevant staff and implement an appeals procedure.

The council will keep its records about unsuccessful Blue Badge applications for at least a year so it can respond to any complaints, and amend its records policy to reflect this.

It will also invite any rejected applications from the last six months to submit their applications for reconsideration.

Article date: 13 August 2020