3 minutes with: Penny Emberton-Brooks

Physios are well-placed to assess people for the blue badge scheme, says Penny-Emberton Brooks.


Tell us about blue badge assessments.

The nationwide blue badge scheme helps people who are disabled to park closer to their destination. Though the guidelines are set down by government, blue badge assessments are done differently in each county. It is up to each organisation to decide how best to meet the guidelines. Each county in England has to provide independent assessors to assess applicants. GPs used to do these applications but it was found that very few were observing the applicants walking.

Aren’t they normally done by others?

It would appear that the majority of assessments are done by occupational therapists (OTs) although physiotherapists are slowly becoming involved. We should be far more pro-active with our approach to this scheme.

How did you become involved?

I needed to supplement my income and was looking for a physio job that was flexible. I had previously attended a seminar and thought that this was something I could do. 

Should more physios follow your lead?

Physiotherapists are, in my opinion, well qualified to assess gait. The blue badge scheme is basically one of mobility, or the lack of, so it makes sense for the assessments to be done by those who know about mobility issues. 

How many assessments a day?

I do 10 a day – normally six before lunch then four after with 30 minute allowed for lunch. Each assessment is allocated 40 minutes and this includes a verbal assessment, where applicants are requested to provide evidence of any medical conditions, their medication and reasons why they need a badge. The second half is a mobility assessment, where applicants are required to demonstrate their ability to walk. The report is typed up after each applicant. All assessments are submitted at the end of day, online via criminal justice secure email.

What is your ‘day job’?

I qualified in 1978 and initially worked in the NHS but after 10 years decided to work in the private sector. Since 1988 I have run my own private physiotherapy clinic and specialise in acute injury, sports injury and orthopaedics. Whatever I earn is mine, after the normal deductions and running costs of a private practice. Of course, I don’t get paid if I’m sick or take a holiday, but I find the work is challenging and rewarding. The never-ending paperwork is a real chore and takes more and more of my time.
The recession has hit hard and the insurance industry is ‘cut-throat’ so many contracts have insisted on paying reduced rates. To compensate I have had to take on extra work and this is why I started doing blue badge assessments. My clinic, in addition to physiotherapy, offers herbal medicine, nutrition and reflexology.

How can CSP members find out more?

I found out about this blue badge work by looking at PhysioBob’s jobs online. In Essex the scheme is run by Access Independent, a Cambridge-based company. They have several contracts nationwide so you could contact them direct. Tel: 01223 501603.  Libraries and town halls carry some information but not much. It would be helpful if the CSP could inform members that it is a worthwhile job. fl
Penny Emberton-Brooks is an independent physiotherapist in private practice in Essex and an independent mobility assessor.
Frontline Staff

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