The blue badge parking scheme has been extended to include people with hidden disabilities such as anxiety and dementia.

The changes, which came into effect on Friday (August 30), means people with autism, Parkinson's and arthritis can apply for a blue badge allowing holders to park free of charge in pay and display spaces and for up to three hours on yellow lines.

The Department for Transport has also extended the criteria to include people who cannot walk without considerable psychological distress or risking serious harm.

The new criteria marks the biggest shake-up to the scheme since it was introduced nearly 50 years ago but it will still be up to council's to hand out the blue badges and not all of those with a hidden disability would qualify for one.

The are currently more than 31,500 blue badge holders across Worcestershire.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We know that for some people, the possibility of not being able to find a parking space can make even leaving the house a challenge, which is why the Blue Badge is so important.

"The scheme, which is already a lifeline for so many disabled people, will make a huge difference to those with non-visible conditions such as autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis.

"It is my sincere wish that these changes will improve even more people’s lives."

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: "This is a pivotal moment for thousands of people with hidden disabilities across the country, many of whom face unacceptable discrimination or even abuse when using disabled parking spaces.

"The changes we’re making will be life-changing for these people, allowing them to go about their daily lives without experiencing unnecessary stress or worry."