A watchdog has overruled Aberdeenshire Council after the local authority denied a fibromyalgia sufferer a blue disabled parking badge.
The individual, who along with fibromyalgia has other medical issues, argued it was difficult for them to answer questions in an Aberdeenshire Council application form due to the variable nature of their conditions, and asked for an in-person mobility assessment.
Although not an immediately visible illness, fibromyalgia causes many problems for those living with it, including increased sensitivity to pain, extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
The council refused the application and even when the individual asked for a review, staff dismissed it yet again.
But this week the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) upheld complaints made by the patient, who did not wish to be identified and was named only as “C” in an SPSO report, and ordered Aberdeenshire Council to apologise, and assess a brand new application for them.
In a report, the SPSO stated: “We found that there was not sufficient evidence for the council to have reasonably assessed C’s application in line with The Blue Badge Scheme (Scotland) Code of Practice, and therefore did not adequately demonstrate that a clear and robust decision was made on C’s eligibility as the result of the desk-based assessment.
“We also found they did not explain their decision to refuse C’s application in line with the Code of Practice.”
The SPSO document added: “C also complained that they did not received a reasonable response to their complaint from the council.
“We found that, while the council conducted an appropriate level of investigation into C’s complaints, they failed to properly identify, and therefore adequately address, the crux of C’s complaints in their responses.”
Ian Buchanan, access training and engagement manager at Disability Equality Scotland, said he was “delighted” that the SPSO overturned the council’s decision, and “stood up for the rights of this disabled person”.
He added: “Too often people equate disability with meaning a wheelchair and that is absolutely not the case.
“With one in five people in Scotland being disabled it’s important to remember that the Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as something which has a long term and substantial impact on your life.
“I hope that this person’s blue badge will help them overcome the inbuilt barriers which so many disabled people face in Scotland.”
The SPSO also told the local authority to ensure in the future that its assessors should “fully demonstrate in desk-based assessment forms that they have made a clear and robust decision on eligibility, and considered the factors relevant to an applicant’s ability to walk, in line with the Code of Practice”.
Aberdeenshire Council was also told that those applying for a badge under the criteria of “unable to walk or virtually unable to walk” should be referred for an independent mobility assessment, if the local authority is unable to make a “clear and robust decision on eligibility using cross-checking or desk assessment.”
A spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council said: “We note the findings of the SPSO.
“We have taken the recommendations made in the ruling on board and taken the necessary action.”