Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 6/1/2023 – #FOIFriday

Happy New Year!

And happy new FOI requests. Now is as good a time as any to send some off requests – NHS pressures and social care seem like areas worth exploring (there’s some ideas from stories this week).

Teachers sexual misconduct

The number of teachers banned for life over sexual misconduct allegations has surged sixfold in the wake of the pandemic to a five-year high, i can reveal.

Figures released to i under the Freedom of Information Act show 35 teachers were handed prohibition orders by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) over sexual misconduct allegations in the year to March 2022, up from six the previous year. It marks the highest figure since the TRA began recording the statistics five years ago.

A further 21 teachers were struck off for sexual impropriety in the nine months to December 2022, including two who were found to have committed sexual misconduct against children.

Twelve teachers were banned for life last year after taking or possessing indecent images – more than the total number struck off for committing the same offence between 2017 and 2021.

Long waits to be admitted to hospital

Rishi Sunak has pledged to cut NHS waiting times (as the numbers on the list (and the numbers waiting over a year) continue to rise). But how long are the longest waits (official figures give a count for those waiting over two years but no more detail).

The Liberal Democrats asked all trusts for the five longest current waits for non-emergency operations, including knee and hip replacements. Of the 59 NHS hospital trusts in England that responded to freedom of information requests, 14 had patients waiting 1,000 days or more for treatment.

Some of the hospitals with the longest waits included University Hospitals Plymouth with a patient waiting over 1,400 days while the figure stood at over 1,300 for a patient at Nottingham University Hospitals, according to the Mirror.

Long waits to leave hospital

On the other side of NHS waiting time equation is the struggle to discharge people who are fit to leave hospital but still need additional support in the community. These delayed discharges reduce the number of available beds and, with A&Es under pressure, may mean elective treatment is postponed or cancelled.

According to an FOI to North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, in the 2021 financial year, one fit-for-discharge patient was in hospital for 86 days while the following year, the longest medically unnecessary stay was 214 days. In the first two months of the most recent financial year, one patient had chalked up 113 days beyond the fit-for-discharge date.

The info is included in an article from the News and Star rounding up responses on the Trust’s disclosure log – which is a good example of the kind of stories you can find just by looking through what has already been released by a public body.

School place lies

Parents have been warned not to lie on their child’s school admission form after figures reveal that places were withdrawn in Hampshire.

Figures obtained by the Gazette through a Freedom of Information request show that the number of parents in Hampshire caught lying on application forms for school places is very low.

Since September 2019, just five school places for infant, junior and primary schools were withdrawn after parents were caught lying, and for secondary school places, none were withdrawn. All five school places were withdrawn because a false address was provided on the application form.

Mental health absences

Scottish social workers were forced to miss more than 30,000 days of work because of mental health issues in the last year, STV reports.

Data obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information (FOI) requests revealed that 30,649 days were lost across 27 local authorities in 2021/22 due to mental ill health. The highest absences were reported in Glasgow, with 8,539 days lost, followed by 3,387 in North Lanarkshire.

Landlord complaints

Latest Census figures show an increase in the number of private rental tenants. The Northampton Chronicle submitted a freedom of information request to West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) asking where in town had the highest rates of complaints about landlords and lettings agents.

Between January 1 and November 30 2022, WNC received a total of 539 complaints from unhappy tenants and neighbours. Reasons for complaints included condition of property, possible unlicensed HMO, vacant properties, illegal evictions/harassment, and a lack of redress scheme membership for agents.

Despite the complaints, no landlords or letting agents were prosecuted between January 1 and November 30. However, 10 landlords and/or letting agents were fined in the same time period.

Children in care

Children’s social care charity Become found that at least 1,257 children in care moved homes between 18 December and 3 January, with an average of 79 children being moved per day, Children and Young People Now reports.

These figures are representative of 96 per cent of local authorities, after 144 out of 153 responded to a Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests submitted by Become. The data provided by local authorities also indicates that some children were moved multiple times during the Christmas period.

Sheep worrying

West Mercia Police has recorded 282 incidents of sheep worrying since 2017, with 56 cases investigated in 2021. Sheep worrying can result in a maximum fine of £1,000 for dog owners.

Figures released to the BBC, following a Freedom of Information request, showed there had been 38 cases investigated in 2022, up until October.

They also showed only three investigations resulted in a person being charged, with a further 37 resulting in either a caution of a community resolution.

Film locations

More than £56,000 was raised from hiring out Bradford Council’s headquarters for filming TV and movies over the last five years, the Telegraph and Argus has revealed.

The City Hall has been used as a location for filming a host of TV shows including Peaky Blinders and films such as The Duke, starring Dame Helen Mirren, between 2018 and the end of 2022. The council also revealed in the FOI that the location income from filming in City Hall is split on a ‘50/50 basis’ by Bradford City of Film and Bradford Council.

It may be worth asking for correspondence between the council and production companies – in Cardiff, FOI revealed emails between the Council and the Doctor Who discussing special effects set-ups at the castle.

Public loos

Inverclyde is the only local authority area in Scotland that has seen an increase in public toilet provision in the last fifteen years, the Greenock Telegraph reports.

A Freedom of Information request sent to all councils by the Scottish Liberal Democrats has revealed that, overall, there has been a 32 per cent decrease in the number of public toilets nationwide.

The areas with the highest drop is the Highlands, which have lost 31 public bathrooms since 2007, and South Lanarkshire, who went from having 29 public toilets to none in 2022.

However, in Inverclyde, there are now eight public toilets, compared to only seven fifteen years ago.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.