The consultation, which will run for three months, is in direct response to proposed changes in the UK welfare benefits system that will see Personal Independence Payments (PIP) replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged 16 to 64.
Currently, eligibility for a blue badge is automatic for those that receive the ‘Highest Rate Mobility Component’, of the DLA. Proposals to link automatic eligibility for a blue badge to PIP will be outlined in the consultation.
Carl Sargeant said:
“We are concerned about the potential impact that the proposed UK Government welfare reforms may have on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Wales.”
“ By linking PIP to blue badge eligibility we will help inform local authority decisions on blue badge applicants and help reduce the burden of assessment on vulnerable applicants.
“ In the Programme for Government we have made a commitment to reduce poverty amongst some of our poorest people and communities.
“ I want to ensure that changes being introduced at UK level to the welfare system do not have a detrimental impact on those that currently access the free blue badge in Wales.”
“ I would urge people to get involved in this consultation and share their views on these proposals.”
The potential consequences of not linking PIP to Blue Badge eligibility include:
- blue badge holders not being automatically eligible for a badge when it expires (usually three year period)
- increased requirement for scrutiny, assessment and verification by the local authority of applications for a badge
- possible increase in use of GP assessment with costs being passed on to Local Health Boards potentially over half a million pounds a year.
At the end of last year the Minister announced that the new Blue Badge - which is harder to copy, forge and alter as a result of an improved design – was free to all holders.
This followed eligibility of the Blue Badge being extended to parents of children under three years old with specific medical conditions, people with disabilities in both arms and severely injured armed forces personnel and veterans.
The Minister is determined that the successes of the Blue Badge Scheme must continue despite the UK welfare reform programme.
The consultation will run until October with changes to the welfare system being phased in from April 2013.