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Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK) has published the results of its annual Baywatch Campaign, which asks disabled people about their parking experiences over the past 12 months to shed light on disabled parking abuse throughout the UK.

DMUK’s yearly Baywatch campaign explores the levels of disabled parking “abuse” at supermarkets in the UK. “Abuse” refers to cars parked in a disabled parking space without displaying a Blue Badge.

The survey aims to tackle disabled car parking abuse as many disabled people are not able to park at their desired destination, particularly at supermarkets, due to people wrongly parking in disabled bays.

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Traditionally, the campaign asks the public to survey supermarket car parks for levels of disabled parking abuse. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, this year, DMUK asked the public to complete a survey from home about their more general parking experiences. This allowed DMUK to expand the scope of the Baywatch Campaign to other parking settings beyond supermarkets.

According to DMUK, the 2020 Baywatch Campaign had the biggest number of responses ever, with 777 people taking part in the online survey. The charity attributes this record number of responses to the significant issue of disabled parking abuse.

With 87.7 percent of respondents saying that they ‘Often’ or ‘Very often’ saw disabled bays being abused when generally parking, DMUK is now demanding that the parking industry and local authorities take disabled parking abuse seriously.

Findings from the 2020 Baywatch Campaign are as follows:

Local authorities

According to the survey, a staggering 95.6 percent of participants did not think that local authorities were doing enough to tackle Blue Badge abuse. Although this is a very high percentage, DMUK says it is not surprising as every year, the ‘Blue Badge Statistics’ are released and every year the number of local authorities prosecuting Blue Badge fraud is “disappointingly low”.

Just over a fifth of respondents have been asked to have their Blue Badge inspected by an official and 96.4 percent of participants supported more Blue Badge inspections.

In light of these statistics, DMUK is calling for more Blue Badge inspections and enforcement of the on-street concession to support disabled people’s parking needs.

Supermarket parking

Traditionally, the Baywatch Campaign gathers responses to create a supermarket league table with which supermarkets are performing best and worst regarding disabled parking abuse. Last year’s survey revealed that Morrison’s came out on top – with 10 percent of disabled parking abuse in its car parks – with Tesco performing the worst – with 24 percent of disabled parking abuse in its car parks.

This year, DMUK says with the data gathered, it cannot do its usual supermarket league table. However, the results unveil that over half of participants either find it ‘Difficult’ or ‘Very Difficult’ to find suitable disabled parking in general at supermarkets. A further 86.8 percent of respondents found that disabled parking bays were either ‘Often’ or ‘Very Often’ abused.

“These statistics show that supermarkets are not doing enough to support their disabled customers,” DMUK said. “Disabled parking is not managed properly, disabled parking bays are clearly not enforced, and abuse of the bays is rife.”

Additionally, around half of the survey participants said they do not see signs of enforcement at supermarket car parks. When asked about reporting disabled parking abuse to a member of staff, 86.7 percent of respondents said staff do not take action. This is distressing and shows that when a disabled customer asks for help, their concerns are ignored by supermarket staff, the Baywatch Campaign 2020 says.

General findings

The survey also asked participants about parking on their everyday journeys. On these types of journeys, roughly three-quarters of respondents said that finding suitable disabled parking was either ‘Difficult’ or ‘Very Difficult’.

In addition, generally when parking, 87.7 percent of respondents said that they ‘Often’ or ‘Very often’ saw disabled bays being abused.

DMUK describes these figures as “appalling”, as being able to drive and park at their desired destination is imperative to the independence of disabled people. The figures show that disabled people are being disadvantaged and prevented from living independent lives because of the state of the nation’s disabled parking provision and enforcement.

Impact of COVID-19

Earlier in the summer, DMUK says it started to receive anecdotal evidence that disabled bays were being removed from car parks to make room for socially distanced queuing. As lockdown restrictions eased, this became a more common problem.

Echoing this anecdotal evidence, nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they witnessed disabled parking bays being removed due to COVID-19.

Graham Footer, CEO at DMUK, said: “DMUK is delighted with the level of support it has received for this year’s Baywatch campaign. However, we are very concerned about the levels of disabled parking abuse in all parking settings.

“The parking industry and local authorities all need to do more to support disabled people. Accessibility starts in the car park and without proper parking provision and enforcement of disabled parking, disabled people find it increasingly difficult to live independent lives.

“DMUK demands that this issue is taken seriously.”

Baywatch Appeal

To help DMUK to continue campaigning on the issue of disabled parking abuse, the charity has a fundraising initiative called the ‘Baywatch Appeal’. This is a fundraising appeal which will help the charity raise vital funds to keep advocating the need for proper management of disabled parking bays.

The charity is encouraging all supporters of the Baywatch Campaign to donate if they are able.

Sponsored by the British Parking Association and BBFI Public Sector Investigations, DMUK thanks the supporting organisations that promoted this year’s campaign and encouraged their members to take part in the survey.

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