It should be socially unacceptable to misuse a blue badge to park in a preferential disabled parking space or to avoid parking charges. It is morally and socially repugnant to do so. However, since the introduction of legislation in 1972, according to DfT prosecution figures, only 20 local authorities have prosecuted people for misusing badges. The NFI estimate 1 in 5 blue badges are being used by someone other than the badge holder.
Enforcing the scheme is essential to its fair operation.
In England and Wales there are 2.5 million blue badges on issue. That’s 2.5 million people who need priority access to parking spaces or special wide bays – and 2.5 million badges in circulation and potentially open to misuse. If disabled people cannot park in wider disabled bays because they are full of drivers misusing badges they may not be able to park at all. Some will simply abandon their journey and drive home – increasing further the sense of social isolation that many disabled people report. Misuse defrauds disabled people of their right to social support, and it defrauds local authorities of parking revenues, at a time when every penny of their budgets is under pressure.
What is this fraud costing the tax payer?
In 2010, the DfT put the “monetary benefit of having a badge” at £5,644 annually for a regular badge user in London (£2,000 of this is Congestion Charge exemption), and £2,174 for a regular user in a city outside London. Even regular use in a more rural area has a monetary benefit equivalent of £453. If one in five of 2.5 million badges is regularly fraudulently used to the cost of even this figure, that makes BBF a national fraud costing £226.5 million – or two fully fitted hospitals.
The Department for Transport “strongly recommends that local authorities in areas where this is perceived to be a problem (especially urban areas) establish specialised Blue Badge enforcement teams”.
Avoidance of the London Congestion Charge by exploitation of the blue badge holder’s exemption is another aspect to the cost of this fraud. We have not included the scale of CCS fraud in our figures above but estimate it to be to the tune of £18 million, 20% of its £89 million revenue per year.
The DfT states:
- “Undercover surveillance and targeted operations, undertaken in conjunction with the police, are often the most effective way of tackling abuse. However, there is still a role for all parking enforcement officers in identifying, lost, stolen and fraudulent badges as part of their day-to-day activities. Parking enforcement officers should be able to identify lost, stolen or fraudulent badges through car windscreens when carrying out their daily checks.”
- “The most commonly reported forms of abuse tend to relate to misuse of the Blue Badge by the friends and family of the badge holder. Accordingly, the Department strongly recommends that in areas where this is perceived to be a problem (especially urban areas), local authorities establish specialised Blue Badge enforcement teams to carry out undercover surveillance activities. These teams …can apply for permission to carry out undercover surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) in order to build up evidence that can later be used to prosecute a person.”
Very few badges that are seized are actually fake, the majority of badges are valid badges being used by ‘friends’ or family.
“Paul has a detailed knowledge of Council procedures and is down to earth and culturally aware… I would have no hesitation in recommending Paul to carry out this type of operation in the future.”
“BBFI have the infrastructure, specialist staff and knowledge to start a fraud team and effectively run it.”
“In the first six months BBFI investigated 100 cases and closed 53. The housing officers in partnership with BBFI have recovered the keys to or issued Notices to Quit (NTQs) in eleven cases and 47 are open and under investigation. Some of the open investigation cases are under long-term surveillance. This equates to a property recovered or NTQ issued every seven days worked.”
“Total costs spent on the BBFI services to date total £25k. Taking into account the 3 cases where RTB applications were withdrawn and assets retained in our stock as well as three cases where vacant possession was gained without costs of legal action we estimate the savings to the housing association to be upwards of £300k”
“I am proud of what we have achieved so far with the continued help of BBFI.”
“Through the partnership our staff are being upskilled to enable them to carry out more complex investigations.”
“We did not have the resources or the experience to tackle such a far reaching problem and had no idea where to start. We decided to hire professionals, BBFI on a trial basis which became more permanent.”
“As a result of 31 investigations the right to buy team working with BBFI have uncovered fraudulent application and housing benefit fraud. Five applications have been withdrawn, each of which had a potential discount of over £100k. Of the 31 applications investigated nine have completed the intended home ownership and have purchased their homes and 17 are still under investigation.”