Council's conduct deemed 'unacceptable' over man's blue badge refusal

A man suffering from epilepsy who was wrongly denied a blue disability badge for nearly a year has been given an apology from Trafford council for its ‘unacceptable conduct’. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said the authority was at fault over the way they handled ‘Mr X’s’ application for the badge which allows people to park nearer their key destinations.

Their report said the council failed to give sufficient weight to evidence provided by Mr X's neurological consultant in a letter in May 2023. The council refused the application and wrote to Mr X to inform him of its decision. Mr X appealed on August 14 and the council requested further information about his neurology outpatient appointments.

“Mr X reiterated the information provided by the neurologist and said he could not see the relevance of outpatient appointment information,” the Ombudsman investigator's report said. His appeal was refused and the council wrote to Mr X in September, informing him of the outcome.

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In response to the Ombudsman’s enquiries, the council’s blue badge team “acknowledges the fact that Mr X has suffered from epilepsy since 2012 and fatigue and tiredness and stress are contributing factors to his seizures…We require evidence from health professionals to confirm that ‘when walking as part of a journey, the applicant experiences very considerable difficulty’.”

The Ombudsman's investigator wrote that it was not their role to decide whether Mr X was eligible for a blue badge or not, or to give a view about the degree to which he met the relevant criteria. “My role is to consider whether the council followed the correct process in coming to a decision,” they wrote.

Generic image of a blue badge sign
-Credit:STOKE SENTINEL

“In this case, I find the council failed to do so because it failed to give sufficient weight to the information provided by a hospital consultant overseeing Mr X’s care. The information provided was detailed and confirmed Mr X’s situation. The council had sufficient information to evidence Mr X’s eligibility for a blue badge.

“There was no real value in seeking further information from outpatient appointments. There is fault by the council here.”

However, the Ombudsman said they did not consider the delay in Mr X acquiring a badge to be wholly attributable to the council. “There was a gap of five months between the council requesting evidence from the neurologist and Mr X providing the information,” the report said. “The council is not at fault here.”

The council received a draft decision statement from the Ombudsman on January 17 this year, with a two-week deadline for comments. But there was an 'unexpected delay' in the council’s response.

When it did respond on March 25 this year, it agreed to the recommendations, but said it was unlikely to change its position regarding Mr X’s eligibility for a blue badge. The report said: “The council then wrote to Mr X offering him a reassessment, but said that unless he could offer further information it was probable his application would again be rejected.

“Following further correspondence with the Ombudsman's office, the council contacted Mr X and the Ombudsman on April 8 to say it had reconsidered his application and deemed him eligible for a blue badge. Mr X did not have to attend a reassessment.

The Ombudsman’s report said: “The council’s conduct during this investigation has been unacceptable. Mr X has been caused further stress and uncertainty.

“But for the fault of the council, it is probable Mr X would have been awarded a blue badge in May 2023. Consequently Mr X has been deprived of the convenience of a blue badge.”

The council has agreed to issue him with a blue badge. The authority has been ordered to apologise to Mr X for its failure to give the correct weight to the letter from the neurologist and for the added stress caused by the council’s delay in responding to the Ombudsman’s office.

A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “We are sorry we did not get this right first time. We have apologised to the resident that the Council did not give sufficient weight to the consultant’s letter, and for delays at points in our response during the process.

"We have now supplied the blue badge as requested. We have put measures in place to improve our processes to ensure prompt and helpful responses to such enquiries in future.”