A BRACKNELL family has hit out at the council for refusing to give their autistic son a new blue badge — despite him having had one for the past 18 years.

Sam and Dave Mullins, from Martin’s Heron, saw two applications for the parking permit for their 25-year-old son Matthew refused in January but have since received support from Bracknell MP James Sunderland.

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The blue badge allows parents to park in disabled bays which are nearer to where they are heading and has been described as a “lifeline” for disabled people by Transport secretary Grant Shapps.

But without the permit, life before lockdown had become difficult for the family.

Matthew’s mother Sam told the News: “Before lockdown and after our badge ran out we were really having to think hard about where we were going because if we can’t park the car in a reasonable space it’s not safe to do so.”

Bracknell News:

(Matthew Mullins)

Matthew’s learning difficulties mean his family has access to a ‘motability’ car through the personal independence payment (PIP) scheme.

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But Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) denied the family a new blue badge despite Matthew qualifying for the vehicle assistance after they claimed Sam and Dave did not provide “adequate evidence” indicating their son’s psychological distress hindered his ability to walk.

Dave, Matthew’s father, added: “It’s complete nonsense. It’s silly, crazy, scandalous that this situation exists.

“It’s very frustrating.

“It wears you out and you end up feeling like giving up fighting.”

The family claim BFC refused the application despite them submitting a report from a doctor and a clinical psychologist indicating Matthew’s need for a badge.

Bracknell News:

Last week, the News revealed the story of another Bracknell Forest family who saw a blue badge plea for their autistic son refused, too, because of a lack of evidence.

For both of these cases, BFC has claimed it has made its decision based on guidance from the government.

Melanie O’Rourke, assistant director for adult social care at BFC, said: “Bracknell Forest Council is responsible for following the Department for Transport guidance on issuing Blue Badges.

Bracknell News:

“Each application is considered against this criteria with the oversight of a clinician, to ensure that medical needs are accounted for.”

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New legislation to make it easier with for people with hidden disabilities to get blue badges — such as autism, dementia and anxiety — was introduced in August 2019.

But given Matthew’s needs, and the needs of the autistic child the News reported was also refused a blue badge, Dave believes few people with hidden disabilities have actually received the permit from Bracknell Forest.

He said: “I really don’t understand what the problem is in Bracknell.

“It’s got to the point where I don’t know what sort of person with hidden disabilities qualifies for a blue badge.”

Bracknell News:

Since the January ruling, the family has complained to the Local Government Ombudsman — an authorities watchdog — about BFC’s decision.

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The Mullins family has also been in touch with their three ward councillors and Bracknell MP James Sunderland, all of whom they say have been “very supportive”.

James Sunderland said: “‘Mr and Mrs Mullins came to see me at a recent surgery.

“Having personally met Matthew and listened to their concerns, I wholeheartedly support them in their application for a blue badge.

Bracknell News:

“Whilst Bracknell Forest Council has followed the guidance issued by the Department of Transport, it is evident that there is some latitude in the interpretation so I have raised the issue in Westminster.

“The Chair of the Transport Select Committee has also kindly agreed to consider this as a case study and we will confer further on it.

“Issuing a blue badge to a deserving family that has already held one for many years should not be this difficult so I look forward to deriving the necessary clarity and achieving the right outcome in due course.”