Lambeth residents have been hit with the second highest number of Blue Badge parking charge notices (PCNs) in the capital.
Recent data published by Uswitch revealed the biggest offenders when it comes to illegally parking in disabled spaces and only Barking and Dagenham ranked ahead of Lambeth, which saw 2,963 blue badge PCNs issued over the last year.
The Blue Badge scheme was introduced in 2000 to aid people with mobility issues by helping them park nearer to their destination, including on yellow lines for up to three hours or in designated Blue Badge spaces.
Uswitch car insurance expert Joel Kempson said: “Drivers who abuse the Blue Badge policy could face a fine of up to £1,000.
“Yet despite the risk of hefty penalties, it’s clear the law is disregarded by many motorists risking large fines to park for free or closer to their destination.”
The offence can be detrimental, and even dangerous, to disabled people who rely on those spaces, preventing them from accessing care or forcing them to travel longer distances when they may not physically able to do so.
“People don’t realise the sort of crime they’re committing”
Disability Advice Service Lambeth (DASL) is an organisation run by and for disabled people in Lambeth which works to promote equal rights and opportunities for those with disabilities in Lambeth.
DASL does this by supporting them in a variety of ways, including supporting them legally and also to grow their skills, be active in the community and gain independence.
South West Londoner spoke to Hassan Khan, 34, from Thornton Heath, who works at DASL as the coordinator of Smashing Records, the organisation’s weekly radio show.
In his role, Khan teaches and empowers blind and partially sighted people to become podcasters and radio hosts.
Khan is visually-impaired himself, having suddenly lost his sight at the age of three.
Reflecting on the high number of Blue Badge related PCNs in Lambeth, Khan explained the impacts on those with disabilities when others illegally park in those spaces.
He said: “I know it’s tough out there, and parking in London can be very difficult, but it’s a crime.
“From my personal perspective, I’m obviously totally against it, and from the charity’s point of view, as an advocate for disabled people, it’s something we would challenge people to think about.
“The impact is huge and I don’t think people realise what sort of crime they’re committing when they’re parking in those spaces.
Khan explained people illegally parking in these spaces may be depriving someone of urgent medical support or access to medication.
“It’s a form of theft, to be honest. You wouldn’t steal from a disabled person in the street, at least I’d hope not. So then why would you steal their right to be able to use that space that they need and are entitled to?
“As a blind person, I don’t have any pleasure in receiving those advantages. I would much rather be in their position and not have those advantages. But I have them because I need them.
“I think we need to find a way to speak to those people and understand what the mentality is, but it’s good that we’re discussing it.
“I’d like to think that in a year’s time, those boroughs, like Lambeth, will be lower down the list and will have done something about it.”
“It’s seen as a perk”
Clapham resident Toni Morris, 53, lives with arthritis and used to be a Blue Badge owner, but lost it during the crossover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
She is currently awaiting review to receive a new badge.
Morris often sees people using the disabled space outside her house when they shouldn’t be.
She said: “The thing that annoys me the most is the total disregard.
“It’s seen a perk, so people don’t take it seriously. We know that parking in disabled spaces is wrong, but some people just don’t care.
“I think the problem is that there’s not enough awareness. People don’t think about it unless they or someone close to them has a disability themselves.”
The sentiment was echoed by Sam Jennings, 42, who is a disability activist from Streatham.
Jennings has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has been using a wheelchair for the past three years, which she said has brought a whole host of problems.
She said: “The way I see it, I’m disabled by people abusing what’s supposed to make my life more accessible.
“That’s what disables me, not the MS.
“And I’m not the only wheelchair user that lives here. There are elderly people with badges who live here. There’s a lady that can’t breathe very well who has a Blue Badge but is forced to park elsewhere and walk home.
“It’s selfish behaviour.”
The people we spoke to expressed that more should be done to deter people from parking in disabled spaces, citing measures such as higher fines and jail time.
SWL approached Lambeth Council for comment but did not receive a response.
However, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham said: “Blue Badge holders rely on these parking spaces for accessibility into shops and accommodation so it is disappointing to see that so many people are wrongfully occupying these spaces.
“I am pleased that Lambeth Council are taking steps to enforce the rules around Blue Badge parking and would support further measures to tackle improper use of these bays.”
Featured image credit: Richard Johnson via Shutterstock