Why can’t my disabled children have a Blue Badge just because they’re under three? Please help me change the rules!

With Sarah Johnson, parent of disabled children

The Blue Badge, enabling disabled people to park in special larger bays closer to their destination and have extra time in time-limited parking, can be the difference between being able to go out places and feeling forced to stay home. Barriers to getting out and about are less when you know you’ll be able to park close to where you need to go, or you have the space to get yourself, or someone else in and out of a vehicle. If you have an autistic child with no sense of danger, for example, being able to park close reduced the risk they face in a busy and dangerous car park.

However, the rules for having a Blue Badge don’t apply if your disabled child is aged under three - you just can’t have one automatically, it’s at the council’s discretion. This can make life very difficult—most public car parks don’t have parent and child spaces.

Sarah Johnson, mum of four children, most with disabilities is trying to change this. She’s started a petition, and while it’s received some publicity, she needs more people to sign up. We think this is an important issue— it’s hard enough having non-disabled under-threes, but struggling, perhaps with additional equipment a disabled child may need, is a barrier that doesn’t need to be there.

Sarah Johnson, who lives in Kent (that bastion of excellent SEND support…NOT) is on SNJ today today to explain more about her campaign.

Help me change the rules on Blue Badges for under threes! By Sarah Johnson

As I open yet another email seeking the most basic support, I'm struck by the inherent irony of the phrase "Making Kent a county that works for all children and young people." It's a sentiment that rings hollow for me and countless other parents who find themselves repeatedly denied the help they so desperately need.

I balance working full-time with being the mother of four children. Three of my children are aged two and under. At this moment, my baby girl is in the hospital, while my twin daughters have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy diplegia. Our journey has been marked by challenges and frustrations, particularly when it comes to accessing essential support services.

Kent County proudly proclaims its commitment to being a place that caters to the needs of every child and young person. However, my experience tells a different story and one that is echoed around the country. Despite our pressing need for a Blue Badge to facilitate easier transportation for my daughters, bureaucratic obstacles have consistently stood in our way. It's disheartening to realise that even the most basic accommodations can be so difficult to obtain.

Sarah and three of her children

Needless barriers to an “easier” life

When one of my daughters, Astrid, was prescribed a Kaye Walker to aid her mobility, we assumed that obtaining a blue badge would be a straightforward process. After all, how could anyone argue that bulky medical equipment, recommended by a physiotherapist, doesn't warrant such an accommodation?

Yet, to our dismay, the council denied our request, leaving us feeling overlooked and marginalised. I use the word dismay, but certainly not surprise. Faced with this frustrating reality, I've decided to take matters into my own hands.

I refuse to accept that Kent county is a place that only works for some children and young people, some of the time. Instead, I'm focusing on the bigger picture and advocating for change that will help parents and carers of disabled children under three across England. I've started a petition to raise awareness of the challenges faced by families like mine, aiming to build support and ultimately, push for legislative action.

But I can't do it alone.

What we need…

The current rules have specific criteria relating to children under three. I want the government to review these rules, including the equality impact on disabled children. I believe the current rules reduce the ability of disabled children under three to visit parks, attend children centres and engage in public life. For families with multiple children with disabilities this can have even more of an impact.

We currently have under 3,000 signatures but we need many thousands more.

We need at least ten thousand signatures

I need your help. My petition requires 10,000 signatures just to elicit a written parliamentary response. To spark a discussion in parliament, 100,000 signatures are needed. Every signature brings us one step closer to creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all children, especially those with disabilities. Your support really could make all the difference.

In Kent (and elsewhere), the promise of being a place that works for all children and young people must be more than just a slogan, it must be a reality.

The petition runs until August 5th 2024.

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