Since the responsibility for the case management of Blue Badge applications was returned to Kent County Council in February, existing Blue Badge holders have ceased to receive a 3-month reminder to renew, something they have historically been accustomed to getting. Given that applications can take up to 8 weeks to process, this reminder effectively provides elderly and vulnerable people with a one-month window to submit their application. As a result of not receiving such reminders, many people have been faced with the prospect of being penalised for displaying an out of date badge, or being unable to park where they need to, limiting their freedom and independence.
Would the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health please explain why reminders weren't put in place immediately following the transfer of responsibilities from the Department for Transport, and provide a date as to when Blue Badge holders will again start receiving renewal reminders?
Badge holders have always been advised to apply several weeks before the expiry date on their blue badge. This information is within the rights and responsibilities booklet, which is sent to all badge holders when badges are produced. Badges also have their expiry date printed on both the front and back of their blue badge.
As part of the transition to a new system introduced nationally by the Department of Transport, there was a significant amount of data regarding blue badges and blue badge holders which needed to be migrated to the new system. These historical records were only available once the Department for Transport agreed that the old Blue Badge Improvement Service system was closed. These records have taken several months to convert and unfortunately this has restricted the ability to send renewal reminders to customers during this period. The end of reminders was not a policy decision and the council always planned to reinstate the renewal reminders as and when this was available within the new system.
The primary focus for the Kent Blue Badge service in recent months has been to ensure that we could continue to process applications after the close-down of the national system, ensuring that we could process applications and produce badges with minimal disruption. There have been some challenges to overcome but in the main this has been achieved. Some applicants have experienced service issues in the early part of this year as a consequence of the transition.
The council is currently testing the data migration, which appears to have been successful. Following this, the council aims to put renewal reminders back in place by June 2019. As part of the changes, we will be sending these reminders 12 weeks before expiry, to give Kent residents earlier opportunity to complete the application process before their current badge expires.