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Charity calls for change in how ‘Blue Badge’ application process is promoted

Local authorities in Wales need to promote the fact that people don’t have to use online technologies to apply for the blue badge parking scheme, and that alternative processes are available.  

While older people should request an alternative to an online application process if that is how they prefer to engage with their local authority.

Age Cymru is making these calls following research carried out by the charity which found that all local authorities in Wales provide one or more alternatives to online application processes such as face-to-face, postal, telephone, and even home visits in some cases, but some authorities seem reluctant to promote their alternatives. 

During our research, most local authorities indicated that the best way to make an application was to go online.  Alternative application methods only became apparent further into our conversations. 

The charity has heard of cases where some older people, not used to dealing with local authorities, quit their application at the stage when they are advised to go online and are not offered any alternatives. In several instances it was also difficult to find an appropriate contact number for a local authority to seek advice.  

The need for local authorities to promote contact numbers and to encourage people to use offline processes is further evidenced by a recent Audit Wales report, Digital inclusion in Wales, March 2023, where it said nearly a third (32%) of the over 75s in Wales are classified as digitally excluded. It added that of the over 75s who had some access to digital technology only 41% had a full set of digital skills, which you would probably need for a complex application process. 

Clearly, there are many older people in Wales who are unable to make online applications. 

Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd says “Now more than ever we need to encourage older people to re-engage with their communities following the pandemic. Putting up barriers such as only promoting online applications is going to prevent many older people from receiving their blue badge, an award that provides a lifeline in so many ways. 

“We know, for several reasons, that many older people can’t or will not use online technologies.  Some can’t afford it, others are unable to use it, while many distrust online technologies because of their fear of being scammed.  

“We would therefore urge local authorities to promote contact numbers in places such as local hubs, GP surgeries, places of worship, and supermarkets; places where older people visit and where they can view important information. Local authorities should also consider placing information in local directories if they don’t already do so. And if they produce any posters or advertisements, they need to make it clear that people can still engage with them offline.” 

The research was carried out in response to issues raised through Age Cymru Advice, and HOPE (Helping Others to Participate and Engage); Age Cymru’s national advocacy project that delivers independent advocacy for older people (50+) and carers across Wales. 

 If anyone would like to seek the support of the charity’s information and advice service about this or any other matter, call 0300 303 44 98 between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]. You can also visit the charity’s website: www.agecymru.org.uk/advice