A BRACKNELL Forest resident has been handed a payout and an apology from the council following a row over a Blue Badge which caused him ‘frustration’ and ‘distress’.

The authority twice refused an application for the parking permit from the man, who said says he experiences overwhelming psychological distress in places like car parks and shopping centres.

Although the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) did not fault Bracknell Forest Council for its decision, it did slam the authority for its responses to the man, who complained to the watchdog following the authority’s handling of his requests.

Disabled access blue badge

Disabled access blue badge

An investigation into the council’s response to the man’s Blue Badge requests identified several flaws, including:

  • Failing to explain with ‘sufficient detail’ why the man’s applications were refused
  • Failing to ‘clearly’ explain the reasons for the refusals, which caused the man ‘distress and inconvenience’
  • Failing to have an appeals process, which caused the man ‘frustration’ because of his lack of access to an appeal

These issues were said to have caused the man ‘a great deal of time and trouble’ as he tried to establish the reasons why his applications, lodged in October 2019 and January 2020, were refused.

READ MORE: More Blue Badges from hidden disability applicants are refused than approved in Bracknell Forest

An LGO report, published last week, read: “On balance, it is likely the lack of detailed reasons and the lack of appeals process have affected his ability to understand what additional evidence he could provide that may support his application.”

It continued: “Had the Council… had an established appeals procedure for refusals, this would have given [the man] the opportunity to submit any additional evidence that he thought supported his application.”

Following the investigation, the LGO and the council agreed the man should receive £150 and an apology for the ‘distress’ and ‘inconvenience’ the process caused.

Bracknell Forest Council has also implemented several improvements to the way it handles Blue Badge requests, including:

  • Creating a letter template which provides more detailed responses to unsuccessful applicants
  • Sending a leaflet relevant to the applicant’s particular eligibility to all unsuccessful applicants
  • Introducing a new review process that is signposted to applications in refusal decision letters.

READ MORE: Family refused Blue Badge for autistic son despite him having had one for several years

Commenting following the LGO’s investigation, Melanie O’Rourke, a BFC adult social care boss, said: “In the past year since this incident the council has already implemented service improvements, including the creation of a letter template to provide a more detailed response to unsuccessful applicants and a clear explanation of the review process in all communications with applicants.

Bracknell Forest Council refused to give Matthew a blue badge after his family applied for the permit

Bracknell Forest Council refused to give Matthew a blue badge after his family applied for the permit

“Additionally, Blue Badge-related communications are now recorded as standard for the Blue Badge service. The complainant has received a letter of apology from the council, and the payment has been made.

“The review process gives residents an opportunity to request a review if they disagree with the decision.

READ MORE: Mum's Blue Badge plea for autistic son refused

“Further details must be provided, including the reason for requesting the review and any additional medical evidence.

“If an individual is unable to provide further evidence in support of their application, then the review is unlikely to be successful.

“The review will be carried out by a different assessor and the request must be made within 28 days of receipt of the letter.

Matthew Mullins was refused a blue badge after his family applied to the council

Matthew Mullins was refused a blue badge after his family applied to the council

“The Review panel meets once a month to assess any new information sent in against the eligibility criteria following an appeal from an unsuccessful applicant.”

Recently published BBC data found that Bracknell Forest has one of the highest disparities between approval rates for Blue Badges between applicants with physical impairments and applicants with ‘hidden’ impairments.

Of the 144 people with hidden disabilities who applied for Blue Badges in the year up to August 2020, 69 were refused.

For some of these 69 applicants, the lack of an appeals process has been tough.

One mother told the News about her experience of the application, which saw her apply for a second time rather than having the opportunity to appeal.

Another mother said it was like she was told to ‘go away’ following the rejection of her application for her son.

In August 2019, the Blue Badge scheme was extended to allow people with non-visible disabilities to apply for the parking permits.

The change was introduced so people with hidden disabilities, such as autism, anxiety disorders, a brain injury and more, can use disabled parking bays which are closer to where they are travelling to.