Guide to Blue Badges

The UK’s Blue Badge scheme enables drivers with certain disabilities to park in places where other drivers are not allowed.

But understanding how the scheme works in practice can be a little complicated – particularly for motorists returning to the UK after a period living abroad.

So we’ve put together this guide to Blue Badges, covering who’s eligible, how you can apply, what benefits you’ll gain, and how to park in accordance with the regulations.

We’ll also take a quick look at some other topics of interest to disabled drivers, such as car tax exemptions and adapted vehicles.

And if you’re looking for expat car insurance in the UK, we’ve got that covered, too. Just get in contact with the Insurance Factory for a quote.

Now, read on for everything you need to know about Blue Badges!

Drivers with disabilities in the UK


Currently, there are around 2.35 million Blue Badges held in England. The scheme also covers Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for which statistics are collected separately.

The handy little badge allows people with disabilities that affect their mobility, and organisations which transport disabled people, to park on streets in areas nearer to the places and services they visit.

It’s linked to the person rather than the vehicle, and can be issued to children and non-drivers. If you’re entitled to one, you can use it for any car in which you travel as a driver or passenger.

A Blue Badge is also recognised in many other countries, entitling you to the same privileges that disabled drivers get there. So if you’re a returning expat who plans to continue travelling, it really is well worth applying for the UK scheme.

And to help ease you back into life in the UK, contact the Insurance Factory to find out about expat car insurance in the UK.

Who is automatically eligible for a blue badge?

Anybody aged 3 or over will automatically qualify for a badge if one or more of the following applies:
  • You get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  • You receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres.
  • You get the mobility component of PIP and undertaking journeys would cause you “overwhelming psychological distress”.
  • You are registered blind.
  • You get a War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement.
  • You have a permanent and serious mobility impairment sustained during military service.

Many of these conditions become more likely as we age. Check out our recent blog on top tips for older drivers here.

It’s possible that you became disabled while living abroad, and are now returning to the UK to work or retire.
Contact the Insurance Factory to find out more about expat car insurance in the UK to help you get back safely on the roads.

Of course, if you have certain disabilities, you may need to make adaptations to your vehicle to continue being able to drive. There’s more about this at the end of this piece, as well as in our recent blog on having your licence revoked.

Who might qualify for a Blue Badge?

If none of the above applies to you, don’t despair! You may still be able to get a Blue Badge if you meet certain criteria.

Note that eligibility has widened in the past few years to include more hidden or invisible disabilities. So if you’re a returning expat, you might discover that you do now qualify, even if you didn’t previously.

You might be entitled to a Blue Badge if:
  • You can’t walk at all.
  • You can’t walk unless you have a mobility aid or are helped by someone.
  • Walking is very difficult due to pain or breathlessness, or the time it takes.
  • Walking presents a health and safety danger to you.
  • You are terminally ill and either can’t walk or find it very difficult.
  • You have a severe disability in both arms and can’t operate parking machines.
  • You have a child aged under 3 who must always be accompanied by bulky medical equipment.
  • You have a child aged under three who must always be kept near a vehicle in case they need emergency medical treatment.
  • You are a significant risk to yourself or others around vehicles.
  • You find it very difficult to plan or follow a journey.
  • You find it very difficult to control your actions and lack awareness about your impact on other people.
  • You have overwhelming responses to situations and temporarily lose control of your behaviour.
  • You frequently become extremely anxious or scared of public or open spaces.

Find out more about health conditions that can affect your driving in our recent blog.

It’s up to your local council to decide if your disability means you are eligible for a Blue Badge. So how do you apply?

Applying for a blue badge

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can apply for a Blue Badge online. They cost £10 in England, £20 in Scotland, and are free in Wales. They are usually valid for three years, and you must reapply before your existing one expires.

Although it’s your local council who manages the scheme, applications are managed centrally on the government’s website. Northern Ireland has a separate application process.

You need to supply:
  • Proof of identity. This could be a copy of your passport, driving licence, marriage or civil partnership certificate, or divorce certificate.
  • Proof of address. This could be a copy of a recent council tax bill, a recent government letter (e.g. from the Department for Work and Pensions), your driving licence, or a letter from your school if you’re a child.
  • A recent digital photo.
  • Your national insurance number if you have one.
  • Contact details.

Providing proof of your disability

If you automatically qualify for a Blue Badge, it’s pretty simple to prove it. Just upload or send in a copy of your letter from the DWP or Ministry of Defence that proves you receive a relevant benefit.

If not, it will be up to your local council to assess your application and decide whether to award you a Blue Badge.

When you apply, you’ll be asked for details of your disability and how it affects your mobility. You’ll need to supply evidence, which could include:
  • Proof of relevant medication.
  • Diagnosis letters.
  • Correspondence from medical professionals involved in your treatment.

It’s easiest to just take a photo of these and upload them as requested. But you could also supply physical copies to your local council if you prefer.

It can take up to 12 weeks to process your application.

If it’s rejected, you’ll be told why. You have the right to ask them to reconsider your application if you think they didn’t take all the facts into account.

It can be quite a lengthy and complex process, particularly if you’ve been living abroad for a while and are not used to UK bureaucracy.

Getting vehicle insurance can also be tricky for returning expats. At the Insurance Factory, we can arrange expat car insurance in the UK for you, searching our panel of providers to find you policies that suit your requirements and your budget.

Where can you park with a Blue Badge?

So is it worth jumping through all these hoops? The answer’s a resounding yes – because of the many benefits that a Blue Badge brings you.

If you’ve been out of the UK for many years, you might be unaware of how tricky it is to park in many towns and cities now.

With a Blue Badge, you can usually park for free at:
  • Parking meters or pay-and-display machines on streets for as long as you want.
  • In disabled bays on streets for as long as you want (unless a time limit is stated). These will be marked with a blue wheelchair sign.
  • On single or double yellow lines for up to three hours, unless there is a No Loading sign. Some councils let you park here even if there is such a sign.

Be aware, some areas, particularly in London, have different schemes and your Blue Badge won’t be valid there. Type in the postcode of your destination to find out where you can park with a Blue Badge.

Where can’t I park?

So where is off-limits, even for Blue Badge holders?

Check before parking in the following places:
  • Off-street parking has different regulations, though many car parks do make special provision for disabled drivers. These will be clearly signed.
  • For example, there might be dedicated disabled bays, or you might be able to park in spaces reserved for parents and children.
  • Similarly, you might be able to park for free in car parks – but not necessarily. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise in the form of a fine.
  • Private roads and airport roads will have different regulations, so double check before you park.

The following places are off-limits:
  • Red routes and clearways.
  • Parking spaces reserved for users such as residents.
  • Pedestrian crossings.
  • Bus stops during hours of operation.
  • ‘Keep clear’ markings outside schools during hours of operation.
  • Bus, tram or cycle lanes during hours of operation – and you’re not entitled to drive in these either.
  • Roads with double white lines in the centre.
  • Wherever temporary parking restrictions are in force.

Plus, of course, you must always park in such a way that your vehicle is not causing an obstruction or a danger to others.

Forgotten the rules around parking in the UK? Check out our recent blog on parking reminders for expats to refresh your memory and learn what might have changed in your absence.

At the Insurance Factory, we aim to make it easier for you to settle back at home by arranging expat car insurance in the UK for you.

How do I display my Blue Badge?

After your application has been approved, you’ll receive a Blue Badge and a clock.
  • Display the badge on your dashboard or facia panel, so it can be read through the windscreen.
  • The front of the badge, showing the hologram, should face upwards.
  • The side showing your photograph should not be visible.
  • Make sure all the details are legible. Your council can issue you with a new one if yours becomes faded or damaged.
  • If you park somewhere with a time restriction, e.g. on double yellow lines, then you also need to display your clock on your dashboard or facia.
  • You must set it to show the quarter hour period in which you arrived and parked.

Sounds confusing? You’ll soon get used to it, along with many other perplexing aspects of life in the UK!

To help you while you find your feet, the Insurance Factory can take the strain off finding expat car insurance UK. Just get in touch for a quote.

Who can use the Blue Badge?

The Blue Badge is for use only by the named person. That means:
  • Drivers who are badge holders.
  • Passengers in a taxi or private vehicle who are badge holders.
  • Drivers who are dropping off or picking up a badge holder, and need to park close by.

It can’t be used by anyone else, including:
  • Non-disabled drivers to pick up an item or carry out an errand on behalf of the badge holder.
  • Friends or family who are visiting the badge holder.
  • Non-disabled drivers who want to use the badge while the holder sits in the car.

It’s a criminal offence to misuse a blue badge: every year, thousands of people are given hefty fines for doing so. Plus, your badge could be confiscated.

And while we’re on the topic of road rules, why not check out our recent blog on 17 new driving laws for 2022?

What other government support is available for disabled drivers?


Cars give people with mobility impairments and other disabilities huge amounts of freedom. They help you stay independent, leading a rich and full life.

So the government supports disabled drivers (or parents and carers) not just through the Blue Badge scheme, but also by exempting you from vehicle excise duty (VED), aka car tax.

You are entitled to receive this exemption if you get any of the following:
  • Higher rate mobility component of DLA.
  • Enhanced rate mobility component of PIP.
  • Higher rate mobility component of Child Disability Payment.
  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement.
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

Those who get the PIP standard rate mobility component get 50% off their vehicle tax, but those on the lower rate do not receive any reduction.

If you’re claiming for the first time, you’ll need to do so at a post office. When you come to renew, you can do so online.

Even if you’re entitled to vehicle tax exemption, you still need to register – otherwise you could face a stiff fine.

To find out more, read our recent blog about exemption from vehicle tax.

Yes, it’s quite a hassle – but one thing that’s simple is finding expat car insurance in the UK! Just contact us at the Insurance Factory, and we’ll do the rest, searching our panel of trusted providers to find policies to suit

When do I need to tell the DVLA about a disability?

Millions of people with disabilities drive safely and legally on the UK’s roads every day. However, some medical problems and disabilities pose a risk to you and other road users.

If you have certain illnesses or impairments, you need to inform the DVLA immediately. Find out what conditions must be reported by searching the DVLA’s A-Z index, or using the online reporting service.

Failure to report a medical condition could lead to a fine of up to £1,000. Fortunately, old age is not considered a medical issue – though you do need to reapply for your licence every three years once you turn 70.

You must give up your licence if any of the following are true:
  • Your doctor tells you to stop driving for three months or more.
  • Your medical condition affects your ability to drive safely and will last for three months or more.
  • You otherwise don’t meet the required standard for safe driving due to your medical condition.

There are more details in our blog on changes you need to report to the DVLA.

You might be reluctant to tell the DVLA about your medical condition for fear that your licence could be revoked. However, in many cases, you will be able to carry on driving.

You might have to abide by certain conditions, such as wearing glasses or hearing aids. If this is the case, your licence will be marked with a special code: 01 for glasses, and 02 for hearing aids.

Find out what other driving codes mean in our blog on 16 things you should know about your driving licence.

Adapted cars for disabled drivers

You might also need to adapt your vehicle to continue to drive safely and comfortably.

There is a huge variety of adaptations you could consider. They fall into three main categories:
  • Adaptations to help you drive your vehicle. These could be as simple as steering wheel balls, or could involve replacing the controls completely.
  • Adaptations to help you load and stow a wheelchair, scooter or other disability aid. These include electric hoists to get your wheelchair into or on top of your car.
  • Aids for getting into and out of your vehicle. Person hoists and electric swivel seats are two examples.

You might even be able to get a grant for the adaptations or a new vehicle through the Motability scheme.

While you’re upgrading your vehicle, why not look into up-to-date safety features, too? Many of these are especially useful for drivers with disabilities.

If you make any adaptations to your vehicle, don’t forget to tell your insurer. And if you’re looking for new expat car insurance in the UK, the Insurance Factory can help.

Top tips for older returning expat drivers

Perhaps you’ve been surprised at how hard you’re finding it to readjust to motoring on the UK’s roads. If so, we’ve put together a few top tips for you:
  • Driving tests have changed radically in recent years, so would you still pass yours today? If not, make sure you brush up on your knowledge and skills before taking to the roads.
  • Be realistic about your capabilities. Ask a trusted friend for their honest opinion.
  • Consider booking an official driver assessment course to determine how your age or medical condition affects your driving. You’ll also get advice on adjustments you can make.
  • Take driver refresher training to reintroduce yourself to motoring in the UK. You can find training geared towards older drivers, too.
  • Don’t overdo it: driving is stressful, particularly if you’re not used to this country’s roads and regulations. Plan your journeys carefully, take plenty of breaks, and travel with a co-driver where possible.

A couple of final points: if you’re returning to live in the UK and bringing a foreign car with you, don’t forget to register it and get it taxed – even if you don’t have to pay. Vehicle tax evasion carries hefty penalties.

And get specialist expat car insurance in the UK to help ease you back into life on these shores.

Find expat car insurance for less

At the Insurance Factory, we’ve got 20 years’ experience helping drivers find the right policies.

We can find expat car insurance in the UK that meets your needs and your budget. We offer flexible payment solutions too, such as paying in monthly instalments.

Get your UK motoring adventures started today – contact us for a quote.