NATIONAL changes in the disabled Blue Badge system will affect all disabled permit holders in Sussex over the coming months.
As of January 1, the new badges will work in a similar way to modern driving licences, having holograms and small electronic components which are nearly impossible to replicate properly.
The changes have come about after it was revealed that blue badge fraud in the UK costs the government around £46 million every year.
One of the reasons old badges were so easy to fraud was because, unlike the new permits, they were cardboard, handwritten, and featured no holograms or electronic security features.
The new badge, Transport Minister Norman Baker said, is as “secure as a banknote”.
“Anyone thinking of faking it can forget it,” said Mr Baker. “We are also tightening up on enforcement and eligibility so there will be no way to scam the system.”
“Motorists who pretend to be disabled to get some free parking are frankly disgraceful. They prevent real Blue Badge holders from using parking bays designed for those genuinely in need and they cheat the vast majority of road users who play fair when they park their cars.”
Currently, over 2.5 million motorists use disabled blue badges, and unfortunately for them, the increase in technology means a fivefold increase in price, from £2 to £10.
Applicants for the new badge will also require a medical assessment to be carried out by someone other than their GP, and to give detailed answers to a number of new questions currently not seen on the badge application forms.
Pieter Montyn, County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “These reforms are being put in place to make sure people who need the badges are receiving them and using them correctly.”
Helen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Disabled Motoring UK, said that “After years of campaigning for improvements to the Blue Badge Scheme, I’m delighted that changes that make the scheme fit for the 21st century have been introduced.
“The new badge design will stop badges being so easily forged and new guidance to local authorities will make the issuing of badges fairer.
The Blue Badge is a fantastic scheme and all these changes will help ensure the scheme will only benefit those it was intended for.”
Other changes to the system include an online renewal system, and badge access for more disabled servicemen and women, and more disabled children under the age of 3.