Date published: 16 October 2015 by Anna Jackson
Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity is pleased to hear that Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley, is seeking to introduce a new piece of legislation which would allow parents and carers receiving Carer’s Allowance to be exempt from parking charges at NHS hospitals in England. It would also exempt those providing regular ‘substantial support’ for patients.
Families face many practical and financial pressures when their child is seriously ill. Listening to the parents and carers that we work with, we know that the cost of hospital car parking can be a big problem. Attending frequent appointments with your child can be tough enough without having to think about finding the money for parking tickets, and costs can add up significantly when visiting hospital regularly for diagnosis and treatment.
The bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons on 30th October 2015. While few Private Members Bills become law, the process of setting out the evidence and making the case for change will put a much needed spotlight on the cost of hospital parking, and this could encourage a change to existing legislation in the future. After all, parking is already free at most hospitals in Wales and Scotland.
A mixed picture
Hospitals are currently free to set their own charges, and while voluntary guidelines exist to keep costs reasonable, the situation varies a great deal across England. In the best examples, hospitals have made special allowances for reduced parking costs for frequent users of their car park. Often the most expensive time for families is at the start of treatment, when they are still in the process of applying for benefits.
For some families, having a Blue Badge means they are entitled to a free parking space, but sometimes the problem is simply finding a space at all when there are not enough spaces. At some hospitals the parking slots are time limited and families are faced with leaving their child while they find a new space when the time is up.
While recognising the complexity of the situation, there is no doubt that this bill would help families struggling with the financial pressures of having a seriously ill child, and this campaign is an important opportunity to make a real difference to the families we support. That’s why we’re backing the call to #parkthecharges and we hope you will too.
“When dealing with the early stages of your child’s illness there are likely to be frequent planned and unplanned visits to hospital, sometimes in emergency situations. While the focus of the parent is on their child’s well being the absolute last thing on their minds is the protocol of parking, especially when, in complex cases, a variety of hospitals can be involved each of which will have different rules, machines, staff etc.
Sometimes it can be hours before minds settle down and stress levels are reduced on the ward or in A&E before thinking about practical things like eating, sleep, washing, communicating with family and then ‘parking’. Hospitals MUST be sympathetic to the needs of the carers who they rely on so greatly to support their children’s needs when in hospital, and consideration to a sensible and flexible parking policy would go a long way to removing one area of worry that can be an unnecessary and disproportionate distraction.”
Doug Morris - Parent