Only two applications for a new scheme that offers Blue Badges to people with hidden disabilities were refused by North Ayrshire Council in its first year.

The blue badge parking permit scheme was extended a year ago to include people with non-visible disabilities such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and anxiety.

A BBC Shared Data Unit and Local Democracy Reporting Service investigation asked local authorities about the number of Blue Badges that were issued and what percentage were for those applicants with hidden disabilities.

And they found that in North Ayrshire 21 applications were made after August 2019 and of those applications only two were refused.

Of the other 2575 applications for Blue Badges from disabled people from August 2019, 89 per cent were approved. The report also found there were 9021 people in North Ayrshire with a Blue Badge.

Tim Nicholls, from the National Autistic Society, said a Blue Badge could make a huge difference to the lives of people living with autism.

He said: “Just leaving the house is incredibly hard for many autistic children and adults. Even a quick trip to the shops or park can involve detailed preparation.

“A Blue Badge can be a lifeline, helping you to get out and about in ways others take for granted. The changes to the rules last year were a big step in the right direction. But these figures suggest that people with non-visible disabilities, like autism, could be missing out.”

Councillor David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils want to make sure that local services and communities are as accessible as possible and they work closely with health professionals to ensure fair and robust criteria are used in the allocation of Blue Badges to local residents, including those with non-visible disabilities.”

If you have a disability or health condition that affects your walking, or have a hidden disability, you may be able to get a Blue Badge to help you park closer to the places you want to go.

A Blue Badge Holder who is travelling either as a driver or passenger can park for free in disabled parking bays and you may be exempt from other parking restrictions. A Blue Badge costs up to £20 and is valid for three years.