AN AUTISTIC girl’s application for a blue badge was wrongly handled by the council, a local government watchdog has ruled.

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) denied the family’s plea for the provision in 2019, which allows people with health conditions to park their cars nearer to where they are going.

Early last year the mother applied for a blue badge for her daughter as when she gets into big crowds she gets agitated, out of breath and “needs to calm down”.

But the council said she did not automatically qualify for a blue badge and would need to be further assessed.

Following this, an occupational therapist reviewed the application, who found she was not eligible for a blue badge as “there was no supporting medical history of a significant and permanent mobility problem”.

The mother asked the council to review the decision, as she said her daughter “panics and gets out of breath when far from the place of travel” which “affects her mobility”.

Despite this, the council upheld the occupational therapist’s decision because it said hidden disabilities such as autism were not accepted as criteria for a blue badge.

The daughter was not offered a mobility assessment to assess her breathlessness, something which is a relevant factor.

Following this, the mother complained to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), an authorities watchdog, which found “fault” in how the council considered the original application and the review.

Although hidden disabilities such as autism were not factors considered by old guidance, it was still “not a bar to eligibility”, the LGO ruled, and the council should have considered the daughter’s difficulty walking instead through a mobility assessment.

LGO bosses also said it was wrong for the council to uphold an original decision without any review of how the original decision was made.

Because guidance on blue badges has recently changed, the LGO recommended the mother should re-apply for a blue badge rather than asked for her daughter to be reassessed.

WBC will pay the family £100 and apologise following the LGO’s ruling, but disagreed with the suggestion it should have offered a mobility assessment to the daughter.

A Wokingham Borough Council spokesperson said: “We fully comply with the latest DfT guidance (September 2019) that states that ‘the use of a mobility assessment to determine eligibility for applicants with non-visible ‘hidden’ conditions is less appropriate than for people with physical disabilities’, and ‘that Local Authorities seek to draw upon other evidence from a wide range of professionals who have a closer knowledge of the applicants case history to certify eligibility’.”