Monday, 27 February 2017

Parking Points Campaign

When my daughter Emily was three years old she was diagnosed with learning disability, autism and ten when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Now 19, Emily is beautiful funny and fascinated with many things. She can become highly anxious and present behaviours which challenge.

When Emily received Disability Living Allowance she was in receipt of a Blue Parking Badge and this helped her in so many ways. Her lack of complete cognitive understanding can cause her to become overwhelmed when we’re out in public. Yet as with all 19 year olds she loves to go into town shopping, go to the cinema and go out for day trips. The close proximity of a disabled parking space made these trips much easier for her and for us.

In the old days of Blue Badge eligibility I would be able to take proof of benefits, a passport photo of Emily and other forms of ID to my local mobility centre in town. I would receive the badge there and then.

When Emily went to a residential school she naturally lost all benefit allocations.

When she moved into her own home last year, with a three to one care package, she began her independence and was back in the heart of the community.  As she has bonded with her carers she has grown in confidence and asked to go on a day trip to Thomas Land. Like many learning disabled people on the autistic spectrum Emily loves Thomas the Tank Engine.

I tried to call the mobility centre to make an appointment to pick up a Blue Badge. Emily had transferred over to PIP, as I was told there was no longer DLA but her disability remained unchanged.  She was just taller.

I learnt that although the mobility centre was still there, they no longer allocated Blue Badges. This was done by a third party provider, once the Council found that everyone applying met the eligibility criteria.

I spoke to a very nice man at the council eventually, who asked me what Emily’s points were on the mobility component of PIP. 
I said she received the higher rate. 
He said “No how many points does Emily score for moving around?”

So this was where it all started to go wrong. Emily scores zero points for moving around because she can walk more than the required number of metres. She has to have someone with her all the time and will do for the rest of her life but because Emily can physically walk for a short distance she scores no points for “moving around” at all.

Emily can walk. Emily can run. Emily can run straight in front of a bus, if she’s frightened or angry or upset.  But although Emily is profoundly learning disabled she is, to use the phrase that is in the news today, not “really disabled” when it comes to getting a Blue Parking Badge.

Whereas once she was eligible, now this has been cut from her life. A Blue Badge is crucial for learning disabled people, for carers, for those with Dementia and people who are partially sighted but along with other conditions, all people with those disabilities are no longer eligible for a disabled parking badge. If we lived 15 miles away, in Wales this wouldn't be the case but we live in England so it is.

The Badge, which is not a gateway to anything other than a parking space, is to be issued so sparingly that many disabled people are not allowed to have one. Like Emily although previously qualifying, the new PIP ruling on moving around is the determining factor which Councils have to abide by.

There is at the heart of this a staggering inequality and a return to a time when disability was only deemed to be apparent if there was a physical inability to walk.

Many thousands of disabled people need the support of all aspects of independent living.  The Blue Badge makes community and independent living easier. It facilitates accessibility to many aspects of life for those with a learning disability and so I’m asking you to support my new campaign.

The “Parking points” campaign is calling on the Government to reinstate Blue Badges to those in society, recently deemed ineligible. To recognise that disability comes in many different forms. To assist councils to give the people they work for, the dignity of a full life in every way they can and to stop this divisive practice of redefining who is and who isn’t disabled.

In conjunction with my campaign I launched a petition on the government website. Please sign and share and please, if you are a charity or group, activist or individual ;  support, sign and share the link.

My Petition (relaunched after it was closed for the election)

Not all disability is visible but everyone with a disability should be allowed to be seen.

Nicky Clark

“Parking points Campaign”