DISABLED drivers claim they are being forced to put their lives at risk from Covid if they want to keep their Blue Badges in York.

They say City of York Council is insisting on face-to-face eligibility assessments at West Offices, even if they’ve been shielding over the past year to avoid catching the coronavirus.

One resident, whose wife has post-viral ME and has been self-shielding, says he finds the authority’s attitude towards people who need all the support they can get to lead a normal life ‘sickening.’ He claimed: “The council has no appreciation of the physical and mental distress they are putting vulnerable people through.”

He said his wife’s long standing hidden disability meant that a remote assessment would be of equal merit to the authority, without exposing her to the risk of catching Covid.

He claimed other councils had offered remote assessments and some had offered an extension of Blue Badges for 12 months to ensure disabled residents could still use them during the pandemic.

“The only compromise to date from the York council is the temporary extension of my wife’s Blue Badge for three months,” he said.

“Given the ongoing uncertainty around Covid safety, this extension is not enough to ensure any in-person assessment is undertaken within a Covid-safe environment. I cannot envisage there being a Covid-safe environment for many months yet.”

The York Disability Rights Forum has also raised deep concerns, saying the requirement to attend face-to-face assessments was ‘clearly concerning during a global pandemic when many people have still not received a vaccine.’

It said: “Requiring a face to face assessment during a pandemic means people must choose between applying for their Blue Badge or risking their health. This is a difficult choice with potentially life threatening consequences.”

It also said it was was concerned that applicants were being denied their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and their human rights to dignity, to be safe and to control their own health as set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the forum had contacted the council and local MPs to raise its concerns.

Pauline Stuchfield, director of customer and communities at the council, said a significant amount of work had gone into making West Offices as Covid-safe as possible for staff and customers. She said:“During the first lockdown last year, Blue Badge mobility assessments were temporarily placed on hold until a safer process for assessments could be identified.

“Unfortunately this created backlogs and delays for some residents with a critical need for a badge.”

She said the service recommenced last August with a number of adaptations to the way mobility assessments were undertaken so they could be completed in a Covid-safe environment for both the applicant and assessor, throughout the pandemic.

She said the council welcomed feedback on ways it could improve its systems, and was looking into this case, and had invited the forum to discuss feedback and investigate changes to improve customers’ experiences.