PARKING a car is something which, for most of us, can cause a bit of frustration at times - but it’s rarely a major worry.

But for many people with ‘hidden disabilities’, for example those with reduced mobility, anxiety disorders and dementia, not being able to park close to their destination can prevent them from going out in the first place.

Parking, however, should become that little bit easier following the Government’s decision to extend the criteria for blue badge parking permits, which already allow people with physical disabilities to park closer to their destination than other drivers.

The change, which came into force on August 30, allowed people who cannot walk without considerable psychological distress or risking serious harm to now apply for the permit.

It was viewed as the biggest change to the blue badge scheme since the 1970s.

Hidden disabilities can include reduced mobility, anxiety disorders and dementia, among many other conditions.

The Government said the new guidance recognised that, for people with hidden disabilities, the anticipation of travel difficulties such as finding a parking space can build on top of the stress of the journey itself.

Kate Stanforth, a disability campaigner from Stocksfield, who suffers with ME herself, said she welcomed the change.

She said: “It’s a massively positive thing and I think it’s going to be, for some people, the difference between going out that day or that week and not going out at all. I don’t think people realise what a difference it makes.”

However, she said it was important that councils worked hard to ensure there would be enough blue badge spaces to meet the increased demand for the permits.

She added: “My second concern is that people are not good with hidden disabilities. I have a blue badge and I often get people making comments because I don’t look ill and my condition can be quite hidden. I do think a lot of work needs to be done on teaching people about hidden disabilities, but I would say, overall, this is a positive change.”

The move has also received the support of various charities supporting those with disabilities, including the National Autistic Society, which said that having a blue badge could be “life-changing” for some people and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.

To help councils with the expected increase in applications, the department has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7m in the first year of the programme. But with disabled parking not in abundance in many of Tynedale’s towns and villages, questions have arisen about whether there are enough spaces to meet increasing demand.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We administer entitlement to blue badges on behalf of the Department for Transport (DFT) for the residents of Northumberland, following national guidelines.

“We are aware of this new legislation and will be monitoring the number of new blue badges being issued. We are already progressing plans for major investment in car parking capacity at key locations across the county and incorporate additional disabled parking provision within any schemes.

“While it is too early to say whether the new legislation warrants further changes to our parking infrastructure, we will be keeping this under regular review.”