A Clitheroe family have won the fight to keep their severely disabled son’s blue badge.
Charlie Ellis, who has severe autism and epilepsy, qualifies for the highest rate of the Personal Independence Payment, which has replaced the Disability Living Allowance.
The youngster, who is non-verbal and requires 24-hour care, has qualified for a disabled parking blue badge since being little.
However, officers at the Department for Work and Pensions queried Charlie’s claim when he recently turned 16 – specifically the “getting around” element.
His mother Sam, (40), of Bleasdale Avenue, was subsequently forced to answer the question could her son walk if he didn’t have autism or epilepsy, and after reluctantly agreeing that he probably could, she was told, that although Charlie would still qualify for the higher rate PIP, he is no longer eligible for a blue badge.
Charlie, who is also looked after in the family home by his father Sean (47), a former Ribblesdale High School pupil who works at Ultraframe, has seizures on pretty much a daily basis even though he is on three different kinds of medication and had a Vegus nerve stimulator fitted 18 months ago.
Disgusted by this news, Sam, who local residents will recognise as the manager at Clitheroe’s Maxwell’s cafe/bar, appealed the decision and contacted Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans.
And former Ribblesdale High School pupil Sam, who also has a daughter Natalie (19) and a son Harry (17), has now heard that Charlie is able to keep his blue badge because he walks with a limp.
Although Sam is delighted with this news she is angry that others who have complex and often “hidden illnesses” may not be entitled to a blue badge because they can still walk.
A petition started by Longridge mum Lisa Donoghue, whose son Oliver, has severe autism and learning difficulties, is calling for a change to the European blue badge criteria to include children and adults with autism.
“‘Luckily’ for us Charlie walks with difficulty anyway because he has a pronounced limp due to a dropped ankle.
“His seizures have improved slightly recently so he’s getting around better, but it’s awful to think that if he didn’t have that difficulty walking that he probably wouldn’t get a blue badge.
“I’m really pleased about the outcome, but unhappy about the fact that so many others, like Oliver, whom the petition was started for, aren’t entitled to a blue badge and I’ve not been able to change that.”
Sam went on to thank everyone who signed the petition and supported their cause.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans, who blasted the original decision and looked into Charlie’s case, said: “It is absolutely right that Sam and Charlie have been awarded a blue badge, from first seeing the video of Charlie it was clear that he would struggle walking considerable distances in crowded places. There must be a serious rethink at government level to look at altering blue badge criteria for those with disabilities that are categorised as non-physical, and I will continue to push for change in this area. Sam has worked tremendously hard to achieve this result, for which I applaud her.”