A “shocking disparity” between the blue badge approval rates of people with non-visible disabilities and those with physical disabilities has been revealed.

The parking permit scheme was extended a year ago to include people with non-visible disabilities such as autism, Parkinson's disease, dementia and anxiety.

An investigation by the BBC Shared Data Unit found that Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) is one of 36 councils across England where the approval rate was more than 33 percentage points higher for physical impairment applications.

In the year to August 2020 GCC approved 88 per cent of all blue badge applications, but only 48 per cent of applications under the non-visible criteria.

A council spokesperson said the assessment processes were different and they wouldn't expect an equal approval rate,

But James Taylor, executive director for strategy impact and social change at disability equality charity Scope, called the national disparity 'shocking'.

"This research highlights the urgent need for staff training of the decision makers in the councils, so they can recognize and understand the range of hidden impairment. Councils need also to understand the devastating impact their negative decision can have," he said.

Tim Nicholls, head of policy and public affairs at the National Autistic Society, added: “These figures highlight the postcode lottery that has developed around blue badges.

“This must change. Getting a blue badge when you need one shouldn’t depend on where you live. The Government must make sure that the new rules are implemented fully across England. This means making sure every council has trained its blue badge staff, so they understand why autistic people need a badge and how this will transform their lives.”

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire County Council said: “We have a robust assessment process for blue badges, with qualified expert assessors who have extensive experience.

"The conditions, eligibility criteria and assessment processes are different for physical and non-visible disabilities, so we wouldn’t necessarily expect an equal approval rate.

“Some of the coverage at the time the Department for Transport extended the eligibility criteria for blue badges was misleading, as it focused on conditions rather than eligibility, so this may have led to people being unaware of the criteria that entitles them to a blue badge.”