Disabled people in Havering having to wait up to eight weeks for blue badges

Disabled people in Havering are waiting up to eight weeks for their blue badges to be renewed because the council doesn’t have enough staff, a councillor has said.

And those with out-of-date badges have been advised to carry on parking in disabled spaces, get parking tickets, and then try to recoup the costs through the council.

The backlog has been worsened by new government legislation that says people applying for badges need to undergo a mobility assessment and complete new forms.

Cllr Barbara Matthews (Residents’ Association, Hacton) raised the issue at this month’s full council meeting.

“There are people out there who are six weeks past the date their badge ran out because we haven’t got the staff to do assessments,” she said. “The way around it is if they are issued with a ticket they can appeal it and it will be rescinded.

“We shouldn’t be leaving those who are disabled unable to use their badges because we can’t work the system properly.”

Hornchurch resident Graham Wilson said his disabled 86-year-old mother Florence had to wait six weeks before finally being assessed by an occupational therapist at the end of last month.

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Writing to Cllr Matthews before the assessment Mr Wilson said he was “staggered” by the “long and drawn out process” of applying to renew his mother’s blue badge.

“My mother is now completely and utterly worried about seeing another therapist – and she has this in the back of her mind for a whole six weeks more,” he said. “Old people worry.

“I understand certain criteria have to be met. But surely this is just red tape gone mad.”

Guy Parckar of national disability charity Leonard Cheshire said: “Blue badge parking is a right and not a luxury. For some people accessing shops and services is simply not possible without a blue badge.

“Havering must do everything possible to ensure its disabled residents can park in the allocated places. Disabled people will want some real assurances that they won’t end up being penalised because of this backlog.”

Havering’s cabinet member with responsibility for customer services Cllr Michael Armstrong said staff were being recruited to deal with the problem.

“We are sorry to any residents who have had to wait longer than usual for their blue badges to be renewed,” he said.

Havering has advised residents that anyone who uses an out-of-date badge is likely to be issued with a parking ticket – but that it will “look sympathetically” at any challenges due to its own internal delays in reissuing badges.

But Cllr Armstrong warned: “The same won’t be true of other boroughs, or police officers – who are also able to issue fixed penalty fines. Residents should not use expired badges outside the borough.”

In an e-mail to Cllr Matthews seen by the Recorder, a council officer said the time taken to process applications could be up to two weeks even when the council’s own waiting list was cleared – because the badges were issued and sent out by an external company.

But Cllr Matthews said the problems pre-dated the new legislation. “The recent changes to the blue badge scheme have caused problems but they only came in this year,” she said. “We had a backlog last year too.”