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TX: 22.02.07 - Blue Badge

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


ROBINSON
Regular listeners will have heard our report last week about the parents trying to get mobility allowance for their severely disabled son. Steven and Wendy Meek from Lanarkshire cannot claim for Justin because he's aged under three. Well Helen Grindrod [phon.] and Kelli Ann Rushton contacted us about the blue badges which allow disabled people to park in designated bays. Their baby daughters Mia and Jessica have a condition which they feel should mean they qualify for a badge but they don't. Mrs Grindrod, tell us first of all why you believe you need a blue badge.

GRINDROD
Mia was born with hip dysplasia and when they have their operation they're placed into a hip spica cast. This goes from just below the nipples down to their ankles and the legs are set at right angles with a bar in between, it renders them completely immobile and they're extremely heavy and extremely wide and it's completely impossible to get them out of the car in a normal car parking space.

ROBINSON
You say you need the extra room to open the door wide to get the baby out?

GRINDROD
Yes, yes that's right.

ROBINSON
Kelli Ann Rushton, what then had you both been told about the blue badges?

RUSHTON
We'd actually been told that due to the age of our daughters - Mia's just turned two and Jessica was just turned one - and that children under the age of two aren't entitled to blue badges and also you have to have a disability lasting three or more years, which thankfully Jessica and Mia aren't in that situation, we just ideally need a temporary badge just to see us through all of these weeks of treatment that we've got coming up in the next six-eight months.

ROBINSON
Now Helen I understand that since you contacted us the council have had a change of heart.

GRINDROD
Yes, Basingstoke Borough Council have been really supportive and we heard this morning that Hampshire County Council are now going to start looking into doing something to help children with hip dysplasia in the area.

ROBINSON
So are you going to get your badges?

GRINDROD
No, not at the present - we don't - at the moment we don't really know - there could still be obstacles in the way, obviously Jessica's in her cast now, Mia actually goes back into hospital in two weeks time to have another operation and back into casts. We don't know how long this will take, so it could be that by the time this all comes about that the girls are actually out of their casts.

ROBINSON
Well Ros Harrison from the charity Steps has been supporting you in your efforts and she's also here. What does the law say then?

HARRISON
Good morning. As the regulations are currently framed children under the age of two and people with disabilities that don't last for more than three years are not eligible. Now the government consulted on this as far back as 2001 and recommendations were put into place - put on the table in 2002 which the Department of Transport have accepted and yet there's been no action since then to actually bring these amendments into new regulations.

ROBINSON
If local authorities, who give out the badges, though were minded to give them to people who were under the official age is there anything to stop them?

HARRISON
Well the legal position on that is unclear, it does seem that they should be following Department of Transport regulations on this, although it's great to hear that - as we've just heard - Hampshire County Council are prepared to look at it and hopefully other councils around the country would do that. Indeed we do know of cases of parents with children under this age have been successful in getting blue badges. So this is another frustration for parents, this inconsistency across the country, there just doesn't seem to be any uniformity about it. And Steps is campaigning to make sure that these anomalies are taken out of the system.

ROBINSON
Well we contacted the Department of Transport and they told us, as you've said, that they were considering a number of changes to the blue badge scheme, including extending it to the under twos. So perhaps they are now going to get a move on.

HARRISON
Well we would hope so, we're absolutely delighted to hear that there will be some consultation on this. However, what we need to ensure further is that the definition of bulky medical equipment, which is needed by under twos is extended to include these bulky hip plaster casts because currently the regulations - the draft regulations don't include them, they include things like oxygen tanks and so on.

ROBINSON
If the rules were changed, with regard to blue badge holders, to take in babies, if their parents have to carry a lot of gear, special equipment, round with them, I guess the government would feel perhaps obliged to do the same with mobility allowance because it's exactly the same argument that Steven and Wendy Meek's put in?

HARRISON
Well I can't really comment on that, except to say that we find the same inconsistency across the country that some people are successful in getting both the care and the mobility DLA for their children and others aren't. But I can't comment in detail about other DLA regulations I'm afraid.

ROBINSON
Well Ros Harrison from Steps, Helen Grimrod, Kelli Ann Rushton, we have to leave it there. Thank you all very much."

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