Family of autistic man are refused disabled badge for a second time

PUBLISHED: 08:16 18 October 2019

Jack Clements with his dad Phil, who holds the expired disabled badge which Essex County Council refuse to renew. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Jack Clements with his dad Phil, who holds the expired disabled badge which Essex County Council refuse to renew. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Copyright © 2019 Celia Bartlett Photography. All rights reserved.

The computer still says NO.

Kemi Badenoch MP is stepping in to help Jack Clements whose Blue Badge has been refused. Picture: CELIA BARTLETTKemi Badenoch MP is stepping in to help Jack Clements whose Blue Badge has been refused. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Having refused to provide a blue badge for disabled parking to a severely autistic man - just one month ahead of the law changing to give blue badges to people with "hidden" disabilities, Essex County Council has refused the badge once again, even though the law has now changed.

As reported by this newspaper, the family of Jack Clements from Great Sampford applied for a badge in June, aware that the law would change in August.

They were refused then and told to re-apply under the new legislation only to be refused once again.

The case has now been taken up by Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden, whose office said: "Kemi was very sorry to hear about the distress this issue has caused to Jack and his family. We are raising this with Essex County Council on Jack's behalf."

Jack, a strapping lad of 28, was at first refused on the grounds that he was able to run.

His family pointed out that with profound autism and the road sense of a toddler, the fact that he could run was precisely why the badge is needed. Jack can run right into traffic.

The badge was refused the second time because the council said Jack's disability is so severe he will always be accompanied when he is out and therefore harm will be prevented.

But again, the family say if Jack decides he wants to cross the road, they will not be able to stop him. His father Phil told the Reporter: "Imagine having to park in the middle of a large car park with a six foot, 13 stone man who can suddenly dart across lanes of traffic if he sees a public toilet when you haven't.

"We cannot restrain him. He is much stronger than us. He breaks free and has no concept of the danger he is in or can put others in. We simply want to prevent the worst from happening."

Speaking for himself and wife Maria, he said: "When we received the rejection notice, I don't think either of us was surprised.

"Like most parents of autistic children, we have had a lifetime of battles with authority. We are always left feeling as though we are trying to get away with something to which we are not entitled.

"A curt e-mail on a Friday afternoon is about all we were expecting. So we were far from shocked, we were simply as downhearted as it is possible to be. Not another appeal. Not another tribunal.

"Can we go on fighting or have they finally broken us?

"We will fight this every way we can. The law was changed to include people exactly like Jack. If he has been refused, it is difficult to imagine how anyone with a hidden disability will be approved."

The law changed on August 30 to extend the badges to people who cannot undertake a journey "without a risk to serious harm to their health and safety or that of any other person".

Essex County Council has said Jack does not qualify on these grounds.

The change was described as the biggest overhaul to the scheme since the 1970s.

The then Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said: "It's absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another."

Jack's family was given a blue badge when he was five. It was removed when he reached 16 but restored after the intervention of the family's MP at the time Eleanor Laing,

Disappointment at Essex's latest decision was expressed by Tim Nicholls, head of policy at the National Autistic Society.

He said: "We were delighted when the government changed the Blue Badge rules.

"We are very disappointed to hear that this doesn't seem to have been the case for Jack and his family.

"Someone's physical ability to walk is not the only ground for getting a Blue Badge, nor should it exclude you from one.

"We hope that the council will look again at Jack's application and make sure that they have applied the new blue badge rules fully."

Essex County Council said: "We have received an application and it was refused. The information provided was not sufficient to award a badge."

"We understand the issues this family are dealing with. If any applicant is unhappy with their decision, they may email Blue.Badge@essex.gov.uk to outline their concerns and enter into the formal appeals process.

The team will be happy to advise the applicant from there."

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