A complete overhaul of the disabled badge application process has been suggested at a council meeting in Bracknell.

Councillors from Bracknell Forest Council have been scrutinising the area’s disabled badge application process. Disabled badges, called Blue Badges, allow people with disabilities to park in disabled bays.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the majority of Blue Badges for people with non-visible disabilities were being refused. From August 2019 to 2020, 69 badge applications for people with these disabilities were rejected, with 50 being approved.

The number of refusals and complaints prompted councillors to conduct a review of the Blue Badge process.

READ MORE: Bracknell families hit out at disabled Blue Badge process

As a result, councillors have recommended major changes to the process. The biggest change would be to the Blue Badge application form. Currently, the only application form available is that on the Gov.uk website. The review panel has suggested that the council’s Adult Social Care department make their own forms for applications in Bracknell Forest.

Other major recommendations include improving the disability assessment process to include expert knowledge of complex disabilities, and urging the council to write its own guidelines on how to process Blue Badge applications in the future.

The seven recommendations are:

1) That the process routinely records the reasons why applications are approved to provide a knowledge bank for future reference, and give other teams access where necessary.

2) That the blue badge process ensures that the appropriate medical evidence and expertise has been considered before a final refusal decision is made, thereby enhancing the objective scrutiny of refusals that is already in place. Implementation by end September 2021.

3) An overhaul of the Blue Badge application form, which accounts for  conditions crossing the visible/non-visible criteria, use appropriate questions to recognise some conditions ‘fluctuate’ (vary from one day to another), use technology to make a complex form smart and simple such as using tailored follow up questions depending on responses, great explanation, progress notifications, and provide sufficient support.

4) That the assessment process includes greater understanding of medical and neurological conditions with access to expert knowledge for complex and sometimes rare conditions, to be implemented by the end of September 2021.

5) That the blue badge team do engagement work with relevant organisations to help manage expectations and increase understanding, both in the community and within the service. To be implemented by the end of October (subject to any pandemic restrictions).

READ MORE: Bracknell officials grilled over Blue Badge application process

Recommendations six and seven are specifically directed to the Executive of Bracknell Forest Council:

6) That the Executive commissions a review of refusal letters to ensure they are empathetic and easy to understand so recipients feel they have been listened to and that all of their evidence has been considered. To be implemented by the end November 2021.

7) That the Executive creates local guidelines that fully reflect the approach to assessing blue badges in Bracknell Forest. The local guidance should enhance the government guidelines and will make it clear how Bracknell Forest Council uses its preferred application form, uses its website and considers evidence from a wide range of professionals and trusted organisations. To be implemented by the end November 2021.

READ MORE: Bracknell mum’s blue badge plea for autistic son refused

The recommendations were presented to Councillor Dale Birch,  Executive Member for Adult Services, Health and Housing in an online meeting on Wednesday, May 12.

The panel’s review of the Blue Badge process, including all of the recommendations, will be discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission on Thursday, July 8.

Meanwhile, the council’s adult social care department is conducting its own review of the process which is being led by the assistant director of the department Melanie O’Rourke. It is understood both reviews will be concluded by Autumn 2021.