Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 28/1/22 – #FOIFriday

Sometimes the FOI request you sent in weeks ago turns out to be more timely that you might have anticipated it being (the long wait for response means it’s not something you’d usually factor in to breaking news).

Breaching Covid rules

We know those responsible for coming up with Covid rules are currently in trouble for failing to stick to said rules, but what about those whose job it was to enforce the rules?

The Mail reports 19 Cumbrian police officers and three members of staff have been disciplined for breaching Covid restrictions, including attending gatherings and failing to properly self-isolate.

The chairman of Cumbria Police Federation suggested the number was normal in comparison to other forces, so there may well be other Covid lawbreaking law enforcers out there to be discovered through FOI.

Grubby streets

Waste collections has been one of the services hit by the pandemic – with staff absences due to Covid or a lack of HGV drivers meaning delays in collections. It’s also one of the services locals will complain loudly about.

The number of complaints made to the City of Edinburgh Council about overflowing and uncollected bins rose by more than 70 per cent last year, Edinburgh Live reveals.

The FOI request also asks for the number of complaints by ward, giving an indication of where residents are getting most aggravated by the state of their bins.

Football and violence

Research has shown there is often a pattern of domestic violence around events like Christmas and sporting fixtures – it’s a pattern that can also sometimes be seen in responses to FOI requests.

Lincolnshire Police received 42 reports of domestic abuse after England’s Euro 2020 games, according to Lincolnshire Live, although the force said it saw a seven per cent reduction in reports during last year’s match days compared with “football dates of 2020.”

Revenge porn

Campaigners are calling for changes to the law that makes sharing sexual images a crime – as FOIs sent by Channel 4 News show 18,700 cases of image-based sexual abuse were reported to police forces in England and Wales between January 2018 and August 2021.

The responses give more detail about who the victims are – almost 80% were women and girls, while the majority (62%) of suspects were male. Nearly 2,000 victims were under the age of 18 at the time the reported incident occurred, and 19 were 10 years old or younger.

Police calls unanswered

Just over 1.8 million calls to Police Scotland’s non-emergency 101 number since 2018 were discontinued having gone unanswered for two minutes, STV reports.

The figure has risen with the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of discontinued 101 calls increasing from 284,239 in 2019 to a total of 590,279 in 2020.

Injured cyclists

Almost 900 cyclists across Lancashire have been injured in crashes with vehicles over the past three(ish) years, according to a report in the Lancashire Telegraph.

The figures are timely, as the Department for Transport is planning to update the Highway Code with a ‘hierarchy of road users’, to prioritise and protect those most at risk of serious collisions, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

However, these are another type of figures you may be able to access without an FOI – the DFT has a useful tool where you can access information about the number of accidents and casualties reported to police in recent years, meaning you may be able to carry out your own analysis faster than asking a public body.

Hospital staff absent due to Covid

This is another one where some of the information is available already but shows some interesting differences between what data has been reported, and what is held.

Coventry Live found that, as of November 30 last year, there were 37 staff off at George Eliot Hospital with Covid-related absence. Numbers then rose to 183 on New Year’s Eve, and 139 on January 10.

The hospital trust has been reporting these numbers as part of the Urgent and Emergency Care Daily Situation Reports since November 29 (and will carry on reporting them weekly till about March).

While the November 30 and January 10 numbers are in that dataset, meaning for some trusts this information could already be available without an FOI, figures for some days are missing (NHS England warns not all trusts have submitted absence data for every day), suggesting for in some cases the information may be held but not publicly available.

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