Why the changes to the blue badge scheme is absolutely the right thing to do

On 29th July 2018 the government announced a huge change to Blue Badges, extending the criteria of who will be entitled to one from 2019. The scheme will now see people with invisible disabilities and those with mental illnesses being eligible for the blue badge. This is a change I welcome with open arms. I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome when I was 21. It’s classed as an invisible disability, it’s very difficult to prove you have due to the fact you can’t see the disability. Some days I am wheelchair bound but a lot of the times I can walk. I always find it difficult to get in and out of a car due to my restricted mobility in my hips, but to look me at me, most of the time you wouldn’t know I was disabled. I first applied for a Blue badge when I lived in Essex and I was not successful. However in Suffolk, I was able to have a blue badge which honestly changed my life. For me the badge doesn’t mean yay I can park right next to a supermarket entrance. It means the spaces are wide enough for me to climb out comfortably. I would park in one if they were on the other side of the car park if it meant I can just get out of the car. Though I already have a blue badge the changes will make me feel more at ease when I renew my badge and I won’t feel like maybe I was just lucky that one time as the criteria will be made clearer.

This announcement will also raise very much needed awareness of what disability actually is. I have had a couple of occasions where someone has seen my blue badge and they have shouted at me. The common assumption is I’m cheating the system somewhere and live off tax payers’ money adding no real benefit to society. It’s a horrible feeling to be shouted at by a stranger and told you are an awful human being because you have a disability they can’t see. I hope with these changes, more discussion will take place about what disability actually looks like.

As well as making the lives of people like me who have a physical disability which fluctuates and cant be seen, this is also extended to those with disabilities such as Autism or mental health issues. The National Autism Society have spoken out about the positive impact this will have, and I truly believe it will. Since my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the world of Autism has been opened up to me and I have interactions and friendships with fellow parents with children with Autism. Some dread leaving the house and even when we are at the stage where leaving the house isn’t the issue, it’s the fear of the unknown. Change of routines and everywhere being a lot busier on weekends and holidays especially makes for a difficult life for a person with Autism. With all the preparation in the world a family day out can be almost impossible. But with a Blue badge for some this will make their lives easier. Imagine opening a door to a child who has shut down emotionally because they are fearing the unknown. You may not even be able to touch that child and somehow you have to unbuckle their belt, allow them to get out of the car and make sure they are safe when they are climbing out of the car and into a car park. It’s a no brainer that a parking space with extra room either side will make this task easier.

As we develop as a society and we have further understanding of various illnesses our laws and schemes such as this must also develop and change to be fit for purpose. Life can be impacted by a disability even if you aren’t a wheel chair users. Mental health issues can cause physical limitations on a body. Anxiety for example can be debilitating for some. If there is a scheme which makes lives easier for people to get out of their home and live their lives it can only be a good thing and should be encouraged.

The Conservative government’s announcement of these changes is proof that they truly are acting on their promises. They promised they will look into mental health and disability and this is another example of how they are delivering on that promise. To some this is a small change, I mean we are talking about parking here, but to those whose lives this will effect, it will have a huge impact on making a difficult life that little bit easier and for that I am encouraged that this is a small step in the right direction. I also wait with hope of the future changes this government will make to better the lives of those with disabilities.

Sam Murray Blog

BlueBadge source ‘https://www.vocal.org.uk/news/blue-badge-scheme-extended-carers-relatives/’

On 29th July 2018 the government announced a huge change to Blue Badges, extending the criteria of who will be entitled to one from 2019. The scheme will now see people with invisible disabilities and those with mental illnesses being eligible for the blue badge. This is a change I welcome with open arms. I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome when I was 21. It’s classed as an invisible disability, it’s very difficult to prove you have due to the fact you can’t see the disability. Some days I am wheelchair bound but a lot of the times I can walk. I always find it difficult to get in and out of a car due to my restricted mobility in my hips, but to look me at me, most of the time you wouldn’t know I was disabled. I first applied for a Blue badge when I…

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Networking

Before I started this month’s article I decided to look up the definition of Networking which states: It is the process of trying to meet new people who might be useful to you in your job, often through social activities. [business] If executives fail to exploit the opportunities of networking they risk being left behind. Rather insensitive!

So no mention of permanent friendship and what that can do to change your life just something you do to promote your business and goodness if you are an executive not much hope at all.

I have been a local Councillor for 16 years and often attend networking events and when I was Leader of the Council it was expected of me.  I admit that I made many contacts during that period and before when I worked in the Law.  However I would like to think that I have never exploited those contacts and in fact many have become true friends.  But I have to be realistic – for some people networking is extremely important and leads to all sorts of business leads, new business and even new employees – so an essential part of business life.

I have been involved in several local charities for a long time and have never thought of these as networking opportunities and in fact I would say I have through some of these charities found lifelong friends.  Networking in communities is extremely important and very rewarding.  The third sector is packed with volunteers all with different reasons for being there and we should embrace and encourage this.

So the question posed to me by Waterfront Life is the art of networking.  I thought long and hard about this and decided that it is just your desire to meet new people, finding the same interests, listening to what others have to say rather than hogging the conversation, trying your best to make people feel wanted.  And never forget that it is not always easy to walk into a room where it appears everyone knows each other.  It is even harder if you are a female – believe me I experience this a lot!!!

Being a leading lady

(By Liz Harsant, as published in Waterfront Life)

When I was younger I took a great interest in two incredible ladies: Jennie Churchill (the mother of Winston), who was the cornerstone of high society, and behind the scenes a political dynamo when women were afforded few freedoms; the other was Nancy Astor – the first woman to sit in Parliament. Her campaigning spirit and enthusiasm for politics was
formidable and she championed many causes on behalf of underprivileged women and children. Strangely, they were both American, but I felt their lives were something I would love to emulate.

I became leader of Ipswich Borough Council in 2004 – the first female ever to hold that position, and at the moment; the last! It was a great privilege albeit rather daunting, and a realisation that I was often the only female in the room. To fight my corner and that of Ipswich I had to toughen up. However, the friendships and interests I formed during those 6 ½ years will always remain with me. I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Margaret Thatcher, who I was privileged to meet, and when you read her biography you realise what a hard time she had to achieve what she did. Every obstacle was put in her way but her determination shone through. Mrs May, our present Prime Minister, has more
than a hard job on her plate. I sometimes wonder how differently her negotiations would be if she was a man!

People ask ‘what are the advantages of being in local politics and what do you actually get out of it?’ Well, it goes back to my two heroines’ love of politics and the desire to help wherever I can and the great satisfaction that brings. What I have discovered over my years in politics is, although times are changing, we need more women to take part in local
politics and aspire to go further. I also realise that it is never easy to enter this world when you have young children, but local government recognises this now and tries very hard to accommodate young mothers. If you love politics then don’t leave it too long: us girls are breaking through the glass ceiling, so just go for it. I would be very happy to help.

Transparency at Ipswich Borough Council

A core principle of all public bodies is that of openness, after all it is tax-payers money that funds these, so it’s only correct that business is done in the most transparent way possible.

It is a  totally different scenario with private business for equally obvious reasons. Competition drives the economy and businesses use a variety of techniques to gain advantage over their rivals.

Ipswich Borough Council  currently operates and owns four companies which are run as private businesses. Currently these companies have outstanding loans to IBC of over £60 million. To put this number into context it is 3 times as much as the Annual Net Budget of the entire Council.

All expenditure items in the general budget are accounted for in public. Large expenditure goes before the Executive and Council with elected Councillors given detailed plans and the ability to ask questions.

Expenditure of all the private companies is done behind very closed doors. Can it be right that £42 million of your money is gambled on the Anglia Retail Park near Asda, or over £4 million spent on the Burtons/Dorothy Perkins store in the Town Centre without any discussion?

Twice as much money was spent in one deal than the entire Net Budget of IBC for 2 years! Nobody was consulted, most Councillors did not get the chance to scrutinise the deal, no Councillors could ask any questions.

It is a fine line the Council is treading – We understand the need to generate vital income to protect, and improve, frontline public services but we also understand the need for transparency. Councillors are elected to represent the public of Ipswich and we have a duty to uphold the core principle of openness.

Your Labour Council needs to ensure the balance between the two always favour the residents of our Town.