AN INVESTIGATION into how Bracknell Forest Council hands out ‘lifeline’ Blue Badges is set to take place in the coming weeks.

The authority’s wellbeing and finance team is spearheading the review after one councillor raised what they called a “reputational issue” at the authority.

In January, BBC research showed the borough had the 16th highest disparity in the UK between approval rates for Blue Badge applicants with physical impairments and applicants with non-visible disabilities.

This means Bracknell Forest residents with non-visible disabilities are less likely to receive the parking permit than people with physical impairments, which allows people to park nearer to their destination.

Blue Badges are easier to obtain in Bracknell Forest if you have a physical impairment than a non-visible disability, new data reveals

Blue Badges are easier to obtain in Bracknell Forest if you have a physical impairment than a non-visible disability, new data reveals

Councillor Tullett, chairman of BFC’s wellbeing and finance panel, inspired the push for the investigation after leading work into social isolation and loneliness in the borough previously.

He said: “[This] arises from [the] social isolation and loneliness review with regards to people who cannot get out because they haven’t got the ability to park up and go somewhere.

“There is a direct link [between this issue] and social isolation and loneliness.”

READ MORE: Bracknell Forest has high blue badge disparity, figures reveal

Referencing the BBC research, which showed just 34 per cent of hidden disability applications were approved from August 2019 to August 2020, he added: “This is quite disconcerting and there’s a reputational issue.

“There is a potential for unintended discrimination and obviously enforced isolation and loneliness.”

The panel’s investigation will aim to:

  • Understand why BFC’s approval rates are ‘poor’ in relation to other councils
  • Discover what Bracknell Forest Council is doing differently in assessing Blue Badge applications
  • Learn what is needed from an applicant for a positive assessment of those with a hidden disability, and more

The investigation will see interviews take place for those affected by the BFC Blue Badge process, consultations take place with other local authorities and a review of data before a report summarising the project’s findings is published.

READ MORE: Blue Badge payout and apology for 'distressed' Bracknell resident

The News has already spoken to a number of parents who saw applications for their children with hidden disabilities refused.

One resident affected by the council’s rejections was 25-year-old Matthew Mullins from Martin’s Heron, who despite having had a Blue Badge for 18 years previously on account of his autism, was refused a new permit in January 2020.

Disabled access blue badge

Disabled access blue badge

Councillor Isabel Mattick said she was aware of cases such as Matthew’s.

She added: “I am very aware of people who have had Blue Badges for some time with every justification and they were turned down which led families to incredible distress.

“They were eventually restored but that was totally unnecessary because there was no justification for the refusal in the first place and I think we have to stop this in future.”

Councillors sitting on BFC’s overview and scrutiny commission agreed to the scope of the investigation at a meeting on Wednesday, February 17.

READ MORE: Blue Badges refused more often for hidden disability applicants

Councillor Tullett, who pushed for the review to take place as soon as possible, said he was hoping the panel’s findings could be published by April.