I have grown up using a blue badge my entire life. I was born with a rare genetic condition, called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (known as brittle bones). It means I have a short stature of 3″10 and my bones are liable to break without any trauma. My parents used a blue badge for me as a child and now as driver myself.
Blue badges are a lifeline
I can’t use public transport, walk long distances or carry things, so having a blue badge is a real lifeline. It means I can live an independent life. However, I didn’t quite appreciate how much I relied upon my blue badge until it was stolen in October 2017.
I had been in London attending an event and my car was parked outside my hotel with my blue badge on display. I had stayed here many times before so I knew the area well and I never had any issues with parking
The next morning after check-out, walking back to my car I knew something wasn’t quite right. There was a parking ticket on my windscreen, and it wasn’t until I opened my car to find that it had been ransacked. I saw that my blue badge wasn’t on the dashboard and that’s when I realised it had been stolen!
At first I was confused, questioning if I had locked my car properly and how this could have happened. I had parked directly outside the hotel so surely someone would have seen something? Or the CCTV would shed some light on this situation?
Blue badge theft has risen massively
I was relieved there was no damage to my car and started to organise my belongings whilst trying to check if anything else had been stolen. (It turns out the thief also likes crispy M&Ms).
There was no CCTV coverage available and after calling 101 to report the theft, I had to wait a few days for a crime reference number to then report it stolen with my local council. I was so shocked when the police officer told me that blue badge theft was very common and had risen massively in the last year in London.
Why Blue badge theft is so common
I also learnt all that there is no way to cancel a blue badge. I thought this was absurd and then it dawned on me why blue badge theft is so common. If there is no way to cancel a stolen blue badge, the thefts will continue and people disabled people will continue to lose their freedom and mobility. Blue badges are worth thousands on the black market because blue badge holders are entitled to a congestion charge exemption and free parking in some instances.
I had just renewed my badge one week before it was stolen, which took a process of three months. I was unimpressed having to go through the whole process again and paying for the privilege of a new blue badge whilst facing the hassle of contesting the parking ticket I received in the process.
I finally received my replacement in January 2018, but the wait meant rearranging my life drastically. The condition I was born with isn’t me holding back but the awful renewal system the council has in place did stop me from working and living my life.
We need action to be taken. The disability charity Scope is calling for the police and councils to ensure they are serving their disabled residents by cracking down on this abuse.
This issue needs to be addressed with a matter of urgency otherwise the thefts will just continue. We know they have now quadrupled across England, but no one is questioning why or looking at how to improve the process.