Wales

No blue badge as Maesteg man does not claim benefits

Robin Thomas by his car
Image caption "I spent all my life working - I've never asked for anything," says Robin Thomas

A former police officer who struggles to walk after health problems says he cannot understand why he was denied a blue badge for disabled parking.

Robin Thomas, 80, has had a heart attack, two mini strokes and a seizure but said Bridgend council turned him down as he does not claim benefits.

Age Cymru is now calling for a more consistent and compassionate approach when allocating blue badges.

The council said it had followed Welsh Government guidelines.

Some people automatically qualify for a blue badge based on criteria such as being in receipt of personal independent payments (PIP) or disability living allowance.

However, councils can also give out discretionary blue badges to people who struggle to walk.

Mr Thomas, who is from Maesteg and worked for South Wales Police for 35 years, said he had recovered well from open heart surgery and an operation to unblock a neck artery, but his mobility was poor.

When he was assessed by the council for a badge, Mr Thomas was asked if he claimed benefits. He was also asked to walk less than 10ft across an office, which he said was not a fair way to test his mobility.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Robin Thomas worked for South Wales Police for 35 years

"I can get about but I'm very slow on my feet... When I walk I tend to stumble along... the further I go I tend to trip on kerbs or off the steps," he said.

"I don't claim benefits and never have done. They told me I didn't have enough points because I don't claim benefits which let me down."

Mr Thomas said he would use the blue badge to go swimming at Maesteg pool for his health. At the moment, his daughter has to drop him off as there is nowhere to park close by.

"I spent all my life working - I've never asked for anything," he added.

Image caption Valerie Billingham, from Age Cymru, says there is a lot of variation between different areas

Valerie Billingham, policy and campaigns manager at Age Cymru, said the system of linking eligibility criteria with welfare benefits was ineffective, because many older people did not claim benefits even if they might be entitled to them.

She said there was a lot of variation between different councils in how they applied the criteria.

"For a lot of people the blue badge means the difference between staying at home and getting out and living a full and active life," she added.

The charity is now calling for more consistency and compassion in the way the criteria is applied across Wales.

The Welsh Government said it had developed "best practice guidance" in partnership with health professionals for councils and the Welsh Local Government Association said councils recognised the importance of the scheme to those with limited mobility.

A Bridgend council spokesman said it had followed the guidelines.

He added: "Blue badges are provided to those who are unable to walk or have very considerable difficulty walking.

"If Mr Thomas feels he has been assessed unfairly, we would happily review his application."

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