By ANISAH ARIF
Kirklees Council has revealed that they have prosecuted 17 people for incorrectly using disabled parking permits.
The data shows that Kirklees Council is one of 89 local authorities, out of more than 250 in England, that have a policy to prosecute blue badge misuse.
The figures for 2017/2018 were presented in the latest Department for Transport (DfT) report. It showed that across England, 1,215 people were prosecuted in total.
While a relatively low amount, Kirklees is still prosecuting more than many other councils.
Neighbouring regions such as Wakefield caught just three people misusing the blue badge system, while Calderdale snared only seven. Bradford caught 20 offenders.
Leeds leads the way, catching 78 offenders, 74 of which were people using blue badges that didn’t belong to them.
The city boasts the most prosecutions outside of London.
The DfT data shows 21 blue badges were stolen in Kirklees during the 12 months and 139 lost.
Many of the lost or stolen badges can end up being sold on by criminals to unscrupulous motorists who want to take advantage of disabled motorists’ privileged conditions.
There has been a number of cases in Kirklees abusing the system that have been reported. One man who used his nephew’s entitlement to park in disabled bays outside Dewsbury Sports Centre.
Another case last year saw a mum caught using her daughter’s entitlement when she was not in the vehicle.
The latest DfT figures also show the number of parking badges for people with disabilities has gone down in Kirklees in the past 12 months.
There are 18,765 people with a blue badge, according to the latest figures from the Department of Transport, compared to 19,323 in 2017.
Across the country, 2.35 million badges have been given out by local authorities to people with disabilities or individuals and organisations concerned with their care.
The use of the blue badge allows holders to park closer to their destination and remain for longer and are valid for three years.
Blue badges can be issued automatically to some people, such as those receiving higher levels of disability allowance or registered blind. Other badges are subject to further assessments.
In Kirklees , in the 12 months to March 2018, 6,725 new badges were issued, 3,301 automatically and 3,357 after a further assessment.
But the data shows that just 59% of those automatically eligible for a badge have one.
Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK said that a difference in Blue Badge usage across the country was partly the result of the availability of accessible public transport. He said that people in rural areas were more dependent on cars.
He said: “The Blue Badge scheme is an important and essential part of ensuring that we, disabled people, can participate and live our lives in society.
“With public transport not universally accessible the use of a car is essential for many. Being able to park closer to the destination is essential for badge holders and can mean the difference between going out or not.”
Recently, it was announced the scheme will be extended to allow people with ‘hidden disabilities’ such as autism and mental health problems to apply.
In launching the extension, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said: “It is absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.
We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.”
Mr Mallick said the extension was a welcome change. He added: “If we are to truly have an inclusive society that works for everyone, the Blue Badge is an essential component of this.”