Determined staff and supporters of Melton Mencap and Gateway are celebrating after a council did a U-turn over a decision to refuse its application for a blue badge.
More than 200 parents, carers and other residents signed a petition objecting to Leicestershire County Council’s refusal to grant the scheme’s minibus a blue badge.
The town branch of Mencap uses its vehicle to transport members to social activities around the borough.
But anger has now turned to joy after campaigners won their appeal to get a blue badge so they can safely drop off the vulnerable people they care for by parking their minibus in disabled spaces and on yellow lines close to venues they visit.
County Hall refused their application in June but after the Melton Times contacted the authority on Tuesday it had a change of heart and decided to grant the permit.
Mencap officials had feared for the safety of the children and adults with learning disabilities it cares for when the bus had to be parked further away because they were often distressed from having to walk longer distances and many have challenging behaviour which makes it difficult to safely supervise them.
When the council refused the initial application it told the Chapel Street-based organisation that blue badges were intended for use only by people with physical disabilities who can demonstrate they get breathless or are in pain after walking for a minimum of 80 metres - according to Mencap.
But the scheme’s manager Yvonne Iwanczuk said she argued her drivers transported people with both physical and learning disabilities and that, ironically, some members had individual blue badges for their own use but the Mencap minibus they travelled in did not.
After hearing Melton Mencap would get the permit after all, she said: “We’re really chuffed. We understand they need to tighten up on who gets a blue badge but they were picking on the wrong people.
“This is a really positive outcome for us and it could help other agencies who have been wrongly refused one.
She added: “Some of the parents and carers were absolutely astounded and furious when we didn’t get our badge. We do have people with learning disabilities but some of them also have physical disabilities which makes walking a problem for them.
“There was also no consideration for those people we look after who have challenging behaviour and no awareness of danger, who are at risk of running off onto a busy road,
“There are a lot of times when we need to get as close as possible to a venue when we are using the minibus.”
County Hall confirmed it had now granted Melton Mencap and Gateway a blue badge after it supplied more detailed information about the people it cared for.
A spokesman said: “Melton Mencap provides extremely valuable support for people with disabilities and we do understand their frustration.
“However, when people or organisations apply for a blue badge, we sometimes need to ask for additional information to clarify that the applicant meets the national requirements and is eligible for a badge.
“We’re pleased Melton Mencap has provided the clarification that was needed and a blue badge will now be issued.”