The Department for Transport said people with non-physical disabilities would have an equal right to free parking from next year.

Currently the rules do not explicitly exclude hidden disabilities, but councils' interpretations can vary.

Similar changes have come into effect in Scotland and Wales.

When the changes to the blue badge scheme in England are introduced, they will extend eligibility to:

  • people who cannot make a journey without "a risk of serious harm to their health and safety" or that of others, such as young children with autism
  • people for whom travel causes "very considerable psychological distress"
  • and those with considerable difficulty walking, meaning "both the physical act and experience of walking"

About 2.4 million disabled people in England currently have a blue badge.

The scheme, first introduced in 1970 to make access easier for disabled people, costs £10.

It allow holders to park for free in pay-and-display spaces across the UK and for up to three hours on yellow lines.

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