Redesigning the new Blue Badge service

accessibility parking spot

Written by Daniel Fyfield, Service Owner, Department for Transport (Dft) Blue Badge Digital Service and Cross-Sector Digital Collaboration DL100 Awards

The Blue Badge disabled parking scheme allow nearly 3 million people with disabilities to park near to where they need to be. Until this year applicants faced an old-fashioned online process which involved sending supporting paper documents by post to their local council. The end of the existing service contract provided the challenge and opportunity of designing a new system that would demonstrate best practice in digital delivery of public services.

In February after nearly 2 years of work, the service went live.  

There was an existing service, so the team had to switch seamlessly from old to new without any break in service. That meant transferring over 7 million personal records overnight.  Through careful planning the switch-over happened without a hitch. While citizens enjoyed the new, simpler online process, the back-office badge ordering and fulfilment process kicked in without fuss.

The previous service was out of date and clunky; it did not meet user needs or accessibility standards. We needed to find a better way to meet the specific needs of its users – citizens and local authority administrators. Front line delivery of the scheme is through 206 UK councils, so it was vital we brought them with us.

Extensive user research and testing ensured the service gave applicants what they needed –  a quick and easy online way to provide their council with the information required.  

The team made full use of Slack and various communication channels to build a strong community of council officers that gave them confidence in the system and its rollout. A key message throughout was that we were building this service with them… not for them. The team were open and transparent as much as possible; being the first Government service of its kind to live broadcast their fortnightly show and tell through their YouTube channel to ensure everyone had the opportunity to keep track of the journey.

Although new territory for a policy team with no digital experience, they embraced the opportunity to learn how to use Agile techniques to deliver a digital service that fully met GDS standards, in turn sharing their new-found expertise with other DfT policymakers considering similar projects.  

Stakeholder feedback tells a better story than service metrics about what we did and how. For example –  

“This has definitely been one of the best, if not the best run projects I have been part of in over 20 years of delivering IT projects in Local Government. The whole project team deserves a round of applause” – Hertfordshire County Council

And from an applicant – “It’s wonderful to be able to apply online. I once had to go a long way to my local council and I’m severely disabled, with all my documents. Very happy!

Just six months into the new service, some achievements are already exceeding expectations:

  • digital take-up has increased to 58%;
  • 70% of applicants are submitting complete online applications which reflects the reduction in processing times from 29 days to 19 days;
  • projecting a £4.75m saving for Local Government during the first year;
  • met the needs of the devolved nations with one solution;
  • developed an API to facilitate the use of independent Case Management Systems that integrate to the central service;
  • integrations with key GOV.UK services (Pay and Notify)
  • Winner of ‘Cross-Sector Digital Collaboration’ at the DL100 2019 awards

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