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Barking and Dagenham Council to review rejected blue badge applications after ombudsman criticism

Blue badges are issued to drivers with certain disabilities. Picture: PA

Blue badges are issued to drivers with certain disabilities. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Barking and Dagenham Council will reconsider blue badge applications that were rejected in the last six months following a local government ombudmsan investigation into the process.

A review of the council’s whole mobility service, including the blue badge application system, is underway after the watchdog looked into a complaint from a resident who said his bid to obtain a blue badge was automatically rejected and not reviewed when asked.

The man - who has a hearing impairment - contacted the ombudsman and the subsequent investigation found the council had already deleted the man’s records.

Under the current system, some applicants will qualify automatically for a blue badge, allowing people with certain disabilities or conditions to park nearer to their destination.

For those not automatically eligible, councils must further assess the applicant’s individual circumstances and decide if they qualify.

The ombudsman’s investigation found the council appeared to reject the man’s application purely because he did not automatically qualify. It also refused to review its decision and failed to offer him a right of appeal.

But with the man’s records deleted, the council could not explain if it had gone on to assess his individual circumstances after rejecting him for not automatically qualifying.

It then failed to give him a detailed explanation for why it rejected both his application and his request for a review. The council also failed to have an appeals process which the legislation requires.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said: “While I cannot say whether the man should have been awarded a blue badge, I have found the council did not consider his application properly.

“The problems highlighted in my investigation suggest there may be other people in the borough similarly affected, so I have asked the council to invite anyone it has rejected over the past six months to submit their applications for reassessment.

“I am pleased the council has readily accepted my other recommendations to improve its blue badge process, and hope this means other people will not be left uncertain about their application in future.”

A Barking and Dagenham Council spokesperson said: “The council is undertaking a review as specified within the report.

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“This review will encompass the mobility service as a whole and will specifically review service process and how applications are assessed to ensure full compliance.

“The council is not required to keep copies of rejected applications although this can be considered good practice.

“As such, we are now going to keep all applications successful or otherwise for a period of one year to enable reviews to take place.

“Technically, the resident did ask us to look again at the decision, however, as we did not have a published appeals process in place, he was not provided with a final decision that could be used to escalate his complaint to the LGO.”

The spokesperson added: “The council will now be issuing a public notice on its website that invites applicants to re-apply if they have had a previous application rejected. This action was agreed with the LGO.

“We are in the process of updating our procedures for processing blue badge applications.

“We remain on track to complete this piece of work and train staff by the date specified in the ombudsman’s report; October 2020. We have also agreed to reconsider the resident’s application for a blue badge.”

According to the ombudsman’s report, the man stated he posed a risk to himself and others while walking alone due to his hearing loss, and submitted

documents confirming the personal independence payment (PIP) points he had been awarded.

He asked for a review the same month his application was rejected, and chased the council after two weeks when he did not receive a response.

If his new application is also rejected, the ombudsman has said the council will explain to him, clearly and in writing, the reasons why.

The ombudsman is a free, independent service which investigates complaints about councils, adult social care providers and some other organisations providing local public service.

Its outcomes are not legally binding, but are recommendations to help organisations put things right and make improvements in the future.

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