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New test by phone to decide on blue badges
TELEPHONE assessments have been brought in to cut fraudulent use of blue badges for disabled people in Worcestershire, which costs taxpayers millions each year.
The assessments, introduced in July, are used when it is not clear from a customer’s application form what their mobility limitations are, or if the application falls into a grey area causing uncertainty over whether or not to award a badge.
The telephone assessments are carried out by an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who can also discuss in more detail the information the customer provided in their application and if there is any information missing that may influence the customer being awarded a blue badge.
Worcestershire County Council was not able to provide figures about fraudulent use and misuse of blue badges locally.
However, nationally fraud and misuse cost the country an estimated £46 million each year.
Misuse of a blue badge could be when an able-bodied relative or carer of a disabled person uses that badge to get free parking when that disabled relative is not with them while fraud could involve people overstating their disability to get a blue badge.
The changes have attracted concern from Brian Hunt, vice-chairman of the Worcestershire Pensioner’s Action Group, who said: “While I agree with getting the abuse sorted out I’m questioning that telephone system.
“My main worry over the telephone interview is to how you can possibly make a judgement about someone’s mobility over the phone.
“Some elderly and frail people just can’t go into a question and answer session over the phone.
“My concern would be for the ones that have not been allowed a blue badge and may be eligible.”
If the therapist is still not sure if the customer is eligible, they will be asked to attend an independent mobility assessment.
Since Worcestershire County Council introduced the telephone assessments on July 17, up until September 26, it had received 1,656 discretionary applications.
Of these, 1,235 face-to-face assessments were carried out and 421 telephone assessments.
Of those 421, the number of applicants referred for an independent mobility assessment was 152.
However, many disabled people have their blue badges renewed automatically, including those registered blind and those certified as having a permanent disability which causes difficulty walking.
The criteria can be viewed at worcestershire.gov.uk/bluebadge