A 74-year-old disabled grandmother has been left ‘devastated’ after being told she is no longer entitled to a blue parking badge despite being unable to walk without a stick and living with constant pain.
Elizabeth Grace, from Abercorn Way in Bermondsey has problems with her spine and mobility that means she can only walk short distances with the help of a stick and often has to depend on two. She is also in pain from other chronic health conditions.
As well as spinal stenosis, where the spinal canal narrows, plantar fasciitis, which causes foot pain and difficulty walking, and knee replacement surgery, the former Heygate Estate resident who grew up in Galway also had an invasive emergency operation on her stomach in March of this year which left her hospitalised for six weeks and in need of carers at home for three months after.
Although she has had a blue parking badge for several years, she was told by Southwark Council in the summer that she had to attend an ‘assessment’ to make sure she was still entitled to free parking.
On the morning of the appointment at Peckham Library, she says the entrance was cordoned off and she had to park around the corner before walking a short distance with her stick in order to arrive on time, but as the area was closed off, the meeting did not go ahead.
So she was doubly shocked to receive a letter sent on August 31 this year from the council’s disabled travel team, telling her that her blue badge would be revoked as she had been ‘observed’ walking, claiming ‘your mobility is not significantly impeded’.
The letter explained: “Unfortunately, your condition does not meet the eligibility criteria because you were observed mobilising with an elbow crutch for a distance of about 100m.”
Mrs Grace says she tries her best to walk where possible for short periods with just the one stick rather than ‘giving in’ to her illness.
“I’m devastated,” she told the News, “Absolutely devastated. Who do they think they are?
“My AD badge for Southwark expires on December 15 and from then on I’ll have to pay the congestion charge.
“I have no lining in my stomach and can’t take anti-inflammatory painkillers.
“The only thing that helps is acupuncture which I have at a clinic – but I can’t afford to pay £12 a day when I had to medically retire at 49.”
Blue badge holders can qualify for a congestion charge discount and can park in any disabled bay, pay and display bays for free, and can wait on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours.
Cllr Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult care said: “It’s unfortunate that the rules regarding eligibility for Blue Badges are set by Government rather than the local authority.
“In this instance, Mrs. Grace did not fulfil the eligibility criteria set out by the Department for Transport.
“Mrs. Grace has been assessed by two independent mobility assessors on separate occasions and each time she received a full occupational therapy assessment.
“I understand that this must be incredibly frustrating for Mrs Grace and council officers have been in touch with her to advise how to submit an appeal against the decision and help with this process in any way necessary.”