Drivers in Fife will be able to use expired blue badges for longer – as just one part-time council worker has been dealing with a backlog of hundreds of requests.
A disabled woman from Kirkcaldy has revealed how she first applied for her badge to be renewed in May – but is still waiting nearly 13 weeks later.
Her badge ran out on August 25, meaning she can no longer park in the disabled bays in most car parks.
The woman, who asked not to be named, was told by Fife Council that just one part-time member of staff was dealing with more than 300 applications made in May.
‘It affects so many disabled people’
She said: “I usually visit the supermarket once a week.
“Because I can’t normally walk any more than 50 metres if there is no space available then it means I can’t go. That’s why I need my badge.
“Even just getting out and about I absolutely rely on my badge.
“It’s not really just for me, I wanted to draw attention to this because it affects so many disabled people.
“One part-time person is absolutely not enough, they told me there are 300 applications for May alone.
“They did tell me I have a grace period for Fife Council car parks, but that doesn’t help for things like shopping or going to the chemist.”
Anne Cowan, Fife Council’s lead consultant for accessible and concessionary travel, has apologised for the inconvenience caused by the delays.
She said: “We have a dedicated team who are working very hard to process blue badge applications as quickly as possible.”
Ms Cowan says that alongside an increase in applications, face to face assessments have also been suspended – meaning alternative screening methods are used, such as waiting to hear from healthcare professionals and speaking with applications on the phone.
She added: “This has increased the time it takes to process applications.
“We continue to review our screening methods and resources and these waiting times will reduce.
“We recognise the impact these processing delays are having on both our existing badge holders and new applicants and apologise for this.
Grace period extended to three months
“To lessen this impact for existing badge holders we are extending the period a holder can continue to display their expired badge and benefit from the parking concessions within Fife Council car parks and on-street parking from one month to three months, from the badge expiry date.
“Further information and updates can be found at www.fife.gov.uk/bluebadge.”
Jenny Gilruth, MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, previously asked for an extended grace period for blue badge holders.
She says she welcomes progress on speeding up applications at the start of summer, and plans by Fife Council to hire an additional member of staff.
But Ms Gilruth said: “The council now needs to pick up the pace in responding to blue badge applications so as to avoid further worry and stress, particularly from vulnerable applicants.
“It’s important that the grace period I worked to secure for my constituents is now extended until the backlog is resolved.
“This will ensure anyone who has an expired blue badge through no fault of their own is not penalised, as tickets can be successfully appealed.”