Blue Badge Blues

I’d like to show you some tweets. I’ve provided a screenshot as they have now been deleted.

Tweets boasting about stealing disabled parking bays

The text of these tweets reads

“The dirty looks you get for parking in a disabled bay 😀 :D”

“Like there’s not 1000 empty disabled bats and only 1 normal space the other end of the car park “

After a few people noticed these tweets and tweeted their objections (Six replies) she then tweeted

“The spam I just got in my feed about parking in a disabled bay is too jokes 😀 😀 😀 :D”

“These people are protective over their bays loool”

The tweets were then deleted an hour later.

This isn’t a rare occurrence. An awful lot of people think that they should have the right to park in parking bays reserved for disabled people. People like George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Worcester police. Often people think it’s OK to park in a disabled parking bay late at night as though disabled people aren’t allowed out at night, or they think it’s OK because they’re “only going to be a minute” or because “they’ll move if anyone needs it”. Some people just don’t care, and in fact feel so entitled to park where they like that they issue death threats.

It’s not OK though. Those bays exist for very good reasons. They are for people who struggle to walk and need to park close to the shop because otherwise they may be in pain as a result of walking, or maybe they can’t get that far at all. They are for people with chronic illnesses who will be exhausted after that short walk. They are for people who use wheelchairs and need the marked space around the bay to open their doors enough to get the wheelchair out. They are for people whose joints don’t bend much and who can’t contort themselves to fit through a door that only opens as far as the next car in a standard space. And don’t think that someone in a wheelchair will have no problem with going further – plenty of people cannot self-propel in a wheelchair any further than they can walk because of pain or being prone to dislocations or fractures.

Disabled people need those reserved parking spaces to help them overcome the barriers between them and a normal, equal life. You may be able to walk from the other end of the car park, even if it’s a bit far, a bit tiring, and maybe your legs hurt because you’re not used to exercise. For people who qualify for a blue badge, walking from the other end of the car park is a distant dream. If the choice is between park at the other end or not go into the shop, they probably can’t go into the shop.

“I’ll only be a minute”

This is probably the most common excuse. It’s not an excuse though. Don’t do it. In that “minute” which will probably actually be five or ten minutes, a disabled person may have arrived, been unable to park, had no idea how long you would be and then turned around and gone home. They might not have been able to stop and wait because of traffic. They may well not have the energy or be in too much pain to return very quickly.  Or maybe they parked in a standard space much further away, then hurt themselves by trying to walk that much further.

“I’ll move if someone needs it”

This seems like a reasonable excuse, especially if waiting in the car. Again, it’s not an excuse for a number of reasons. First of all, the person that needs the space might not see you waiting in the car to ask. If the driver is not with the car then the disabled person won’t know that they would move it, and they probably can’t park to go and find the driver to ask them. Sometimes they could send a bystander to ask them, but that has variable results.

There’s also the strong possibility of getting verbally or physically attacked just for asking someone to move. This happens, and it happens a lot. How is someone to know whether you will turn out to be nasty or nice?

“There’s loads of spaces”

This excuse tends to happen most at night and it’s possibly the least-bad. It is often true that there are lots of spaces at supermarkets. But take a look at how far those spaces are from the door. The distance from shop to space might be twenty metres for the closes one, but it could be a hundred metres or more for the farthest space. Unfortunately the people who use this excuse tend to park in the closest space to the shop and at my local Tesco it’s not uncommon for the first ten spaces to be filled with cars with no blue badge on display if I go there at 10pm. (Which I do a lot because my illness messes up my sleeping pattern.) The person using this excuse also has no idea how many people might need to park before they return. If lots turn up, they’ll be parking much further away.

Then there’s the unthinking shops that leave stuff in the disabled parking bays.

Or even put more permanent things in those bays.

This video explains why people need disabled parking bays.

“Residential training” for disabled people to be extended

I’ve just come across this government document “Residential Training Provision – Independent Advisory Panel Report” [PDF] and I’m freaking out a bit. I may be wrong – I’m too exhausted to get through the whole document – but it’s full of scary statements.

“Although the primary focus of the panel’s work has been to review the provision of what is often referred to as specialist disability employment training as delivered by Residential Training providers, the panel has been mindful of other DWP programmes such as Work Choice and Work Programme and note the disappointing statistics published recently.”

The document is a review of residential training for disabled people. It makes plenty of reference to “markets”, to “cost/benefit analysis” and to how the programme is great because it is “intensive”. It doesn’t make any mention of the potential health impact of an intensive course on a sick or disabled person, or the practicalities of being away from home with familiarity, provisions for medicines and care, or the impact of upheaval and stress of being forced to go away. In my opinion the most scary statement is this one:

“In the vast majority of cases, the type and severity of a person’s impairment/health condition has little bearing on their ability to secure and sustain employment”

It seems that plans are already in place to send a lot more people on such residential training.

“If the provision continues following this review it will be subjected to an open competition to tender for contracts for provision post August 31st 2014.”

There are plans for non-disabled people too.

The panel considers that the provision can be improved in the following ways:
1) Increase numbers that use the residential element including reaching out to nondisabled people who are long term unemployed and would specifically benefit from the provision e.g. they would benefit from a holistic and intense approach. It could be more cost effective to increase numbers of RT trainees, as the unit cost of provision would then be driven down.

Read the full document – Residential Training Provision – Independent Advisory Panel Report” [PDF]

UPDATE

This isn’t what I thought it was on first impressions, however I still have serious reservations about it. As is pointed out in the comments below:

“This is talking about residential colleges that currently exist that are primarily for adults with severe learning difficulties and/or multiple complex needs. When people in that group reach 19 it often their fervent wish to go to one of these residential places and they often don’t get the chance.”

So, I can see that this can be a positive thing in some circumstances and I was wrong to call it a work camp. However, the attitude of the review bothers me a lot. To claim that impairments and health conditions don’t keep people out of work is just plain wrong. Overcoming barriers in society can only get someone so far; sometimes an impairment just will not let a person work. The suggestion to roll this scheme out to long-term unemployed people shows there is a view that this “holistic intensive approach” is to be used elsewhere, and my fear is that it will be applied to people who are significantly sick or disabled but unlucky enough to be in the work related activity group for ESA. Combined with the DWP’s penchant for sanctions this could be a very bad thing. Also not addressed is how sick and disabled people will function away from their support structures at home.