Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 14/10/22 – #FOIFriday

A quick (and late) round up of some possible ideas this week.

Long waits for support

Almost two in every three plans issued by BCP Council to assist children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities who need more support were not issued failed to hit the specified deadline, according to the Daily Echo. The local authority issued 507 new education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in 2021.

However, 332 of these (65 per cent) were completed beyond the 20-week timeframe stipulated by government. While this was an improvement on the previous year where just 23 per cent were issued on time, it remains significantly worse than the 2019 figure of 89 per cent on deadline.

Grave mistakes

The Northern Echo recently exposed a shocking grave blunder when the Bell family from County Durham discovered they had been visiting someone else’s grave where they believed their dad Thomas Bell had been buried for 17 years. They only discovered the blunder after the death of mum Hilda, whose last wishes were to be buried alongside her husband, and grave diggers found someone else was buried in his grave. An investigation into the incident is now underway.

The paper followed the story up with an FOI request for similar cases and found seven more families had to endure shocking mix-ups in burying their loved ones across the North East. Councils across the region were forced to admit to the distressing blunders which happened in six different graveyards in the last ten years.

Keyword crime

Using FOI to ask for a search of crimes relating to a particular keyword, such as a company name or a location can turn up some interesting results.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request, published by Essex Police, shows in the 2021 calendar year, a total of 9 crimes were logged by the force where the online food delivery service was recorded as being an element in the offence, according to the Clacton Gazette

Four were theft offences, where two victims had their delivery bags stolen, one delivery driver had their e-bike stolen while picking up an order, and a suspect stole a Deliveroo smart tablet.

Birmingham Live has obtained a list of crimes associated with the OnlyFans website, which has exploded in popularity over the last few years.

They include users who blackmailed, stalked and sent letters to OnlyFans creators, and threatened to expose sexual pictures and videos. Some of the unwanted attention was so alarming that the online stars called the cops.

Cost of living help

Six in 10 applications made to an emergency fund by desperate people needing help during the cost of living crisis were refused, Birmingham Live has revealed. The Household Support Fund allows local authorities to distribute grants to residents most in need.

The money can be used to help with the cost of food, gas and electricity, water and other essentials. Some councils in the West Midlands have confirmed they will accept applications from anyone, regardless of their circumstances, and then prioritise by need, whereas others have stated only those in receipt of certain benefits will be eligible for support.

A total of 2,777 applications were made for the Local Welfare Provision element of the scheme in Sandwell. Of that number, 1,092 requests were successful – but 1,685 (60%) were denied.

New speed limit

Got a section of road that’s recently seen a change in the speed limit? Might be worth an FOI to find out how many drivers have been caught out by the change.

Forty drivers a month on average have been clocked speeding on a 1.1mile stretch of busy Teesside road, Teesside Live reports. The speed limit on Dixons Bank between Marton and and Nunthorpe was lowered from 40mph to 30mph in March last year.

Frustrated drivers complained about the lack of clear signage along the road at the time, including one motorist who was clocked doing 37mph by a police speed patrol last June and was slapped with a £100 fine.

Airport arrests

Analysis of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to police forces serving each mainland airport in the UK by Bounce – a company that provides luggage storage – found Yorkshire and the Humber’s main airport had an average of 31.37 arrest per million passengers over the past three years, the Telegraph and Argus reports. Only Doncaster-Sheffield Airport (47.66) and Birmingham Airport (36.61) had higher arrest rates over those three years.

There were 172 arrests between 2019 and 2021 at LBA in total, which puts the airport in fifth for most people being detained in that time, behind Heathrow (3,262), Gatwick (1,510), Birmingham (659) and London City (190).

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