One theme for this week is looking at FOI requests that take other major stories in a new direction.
For example, what has happened to the Ukrainian refugees offered homes in the UK? Away from those who have found support are those who have found themselves relying on councils’ overstretched homelessness services.
Or how much those caught up in the collapse of cryptocurrency trading platform FTX have reported as losses to the police.
Ukraine refugees in B&Bs
This isn’t an issue affecting only those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The high cost of private rentals and a severe lack of social housing that has seen rising numbers of homeless families placed in temporary accommodation is also impacting thousands of Ukrainian refugees, who are being housed in hotels as councils struggle to deal with a rising number becoming homeless.
Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian households have presented themselves as homeless to English councils since the end of February 2022, the Independent reports.
Freedom of information figures obtained from 134 of 181 district councils in England show at least 668 households – 1,618 people – have been accommodated in hotels since March 2022. A further 406 households have been placed in temporary accommodation, such as a local authority flat or other social housing.
Thirteen investors caught up in the collapse of cryptocurrency trading platform FTX have made fraud reports to UK police, the Evening Standard reports.
FTX filed for bankruptcy on November 11 after it was alleged that then-chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, had illegally diverted massive sums of customer money from the company to a second firm that he owned, Alameda Research.
According to a Freedom of Information request made on behalf of the Investing Reviews website, 13 people made reports to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for alleged fraud, in November last year.
The total loss reported was £1.16 million, with the biggest individual loss at £1 million.
Major beauty brands Urban Decay, Revolution and Inglot are selling make-up in the UK containing “forever chemicals”, BBC News has found.
These pollutants – known as PFAS – have been linked to serious health concerns including cancer. They are not illegal in the UK but five European countries are expected to propose an EU-wide ban on Friday.
This potential risk led the Environment Agency (EA) to conduct a review into PFAS use in the UK in 2021. The EA did not publish the names of the nine PFAS still in use by the industry in its final report. But a Freedom of Information request by BBC News into the EA has now revealed them. The BBC searched for them in thousands of ingredient lists of the most popular UK brands and common product types known to use PFAS: mascara, eyeshadow, foundation, and lipsticks.
Long ambulance waits
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Darrin Whyte, an independent local election candidate for Halton Castle ward in Runcorn, showed that during November 2022, patients in Halton and Warrington on a Category 4 call waited on average four hours and 47 minutes.
By December this had stretched out to 13 hours and 47 minutes, InYourArea reports.
Children’s mental health
Grim figures show that vulnerable kids are facing months in limbo to get help for mental health conditions on the NHS, the Mirror reports.
One young person had waited 1,512 days to get support as of August 2022 in the Norfolk & Waveney ICB area, while another had a wait of 1,113 days in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as of June.
Of the 29 CCGs and ICBs that responded to Freedom of Information requests by the Liberal Democrats, eight areas admitted average waits for mental health services exceeded 100 days.
Long waits for care
Figures revealing how one person waited almost five years for a care package to be put in place have been branded “disgraceful and shocking” by Tories.
Conservative social care spokesman Craig Hoy hit out after figures obtained under Freedom of Information showed one person in Edinburgh waited 1,775 days before a care package was put in place in 2022, Clyde1 reports.
Edinburgh City Council told the Tories that the wait was for a “small package of housing support where the individual had specific needs that made finding appropriate care more difficult”.
School teacher recruitment
The Scottish Liberal Democrats are urging ministers to take action to recruit teachers in certain geographic areas. Figures obtained by the party through freedom of information requests to all 32 local authorities found 636 teaching posts were relisted in 2021/22.
In Aberdeenshire, a vacancy for a technical education teacher at Alford Academy was re-advertised 11 times and has been vacant since January 2022, the Herald reports. A maths position in Dundee was reposted five times, while roles in Shetland were advertised seven times.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Telegraph & Argus to West Yorkshire Police revealed that a total of 232 cannabis farms were uncovered in the Bradford district from January to October 2022, with the overall figure for last year likely to have been around the 280 mark at that rate.
This was down from 373 cannabis farms discovered in the Bradford district in 2021 and the 359 found in 2020 – a reduction welcomed by police as a sign of the “great work” being done to tackle the problem.
School crossing patrols
The number of crossing patrollers working across the north and north-east have been cut in the past five years.
Figures obtained by The Press & Journal through a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests show the majority of councils have reduced the number of crossing patrollers they employ.
The only exception is Orkney Islands Council which has the same number of lollipop men or women as it did in 2017.
The most significant cuts were made by Moray Council who have had no patrollers on the payroll since axing them all in 2019 budget cuts. This is compared to the 36 employed in the region in 2017, which cost the council £250,000 over that year.
One to save for next year perhaps.
Part of Edinburgh Council’s Christmas display this year was a giant Edinburgh sign in front of the Christmas tree. And after a response to an FOI, the Edinburgh Reporter seems pretty happy the sign is set to be a festive feature for the next decade.
The ‘EDINBURGH’ Light Art installation will be in place until this month and it will then be used in the public realm every year going forward until it is no longer usable which the council estimates is around 5 – 10 years. Any required repairs will be made to the sign to increase its ‘shelf life’.
The cost of putting up the illuminated ‘Edinburgh’ sign installed on The Mound just before Christmas was £22,000. But The City of Edinburgh Council said it is unable to confirm the exact amount of the running costs until it is billed this year, although they estimate the cost to be between £50 and £100.