Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 27/5/22 – #FOIFriday

FOI ideas this week look at high turnover in children’s social care, police using force on teens, prison contraband, and the rise of cryptocurrency crime.

Struggling social care

The council that admitted it failed to prevent the murder of toddler Star Hobson has a serious staff retention problem in its children’s services, according to data uncovered by a Sky News freedom of information request.

More than 44% of workers at Bradford Council are from agencies. That compares with the national average of just 15.5%. And it has a vacancy rate of over 27%, almost twice the national average.

A review into Star’s death found: “High turnover of social workers had a substantial impact on quality of practice. The social worker who made the home visit on 4 September 2020 had no previous knowledge of Star or her family. They left the service the following week (with one week’s notice) with the assessment incomplete.”

A more general look at council use of agency staff in last week’s FOIFriday, suggested social care departments are were the bulk of temporary staff tend to be employed.

Use of force on teenagers

The use of force by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers on Oldham’s under-18s has surged, data obtained by The Oldham Times in a Freedom of Information Request suggests. There were 34 reports of the use of force on 11-17-year-olds in 2018, but 229 in 2021. And in 2022 so far, the figure is already double that of 2018, at 68.

In February, a Greater Manchester Police officer was given a written warning by the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to his use of CS spray while arresting a 13-year-old boy in Moss Side, Manchester.

Prison confiscations

Over the last two years officers confiscated hundreds of chargers, lighters and over 500 phones from those held at HMP Liverpool. Other fairly typical confiscations included letters, USBs and memory cards.

The exclusive figures from the Liverpool Echo also revealed a an incredible 80lt of hooch – a high-proof, illegally brewed liquor and a total of around 8kg of cannabis. Five drones were discovered and one booklet containing a handwritten story was taken. On June 17, 2020, a single Kinder Egg was confiscated from a prisoner.

Tube staff abuse

A Freedom of Information request, reported in the Enfield Independent, has revealed that staff at London’s Tube stations faced an average of 245 incidents of abuse per month between April 2020 and December 2021, including 24 physical assaults per month.

The data revealed a correlation between fare evasion and abusive behaviour, with almost 2,500 incidents of abuse having been a result of fare disputes in that time period.

Victoria station saw the highest number of abusive incidents relating to fare evasion during the pandemic, with 71 incidents recorded between April 2020 and December 2021. Notting Hill Gate saw the second highest number of incidents with 66.

While not all areas have publicly owned public transport that is subject to FOI, this request could potentially be adapted to other customer facing parts of public bodies.

Long ambulance waits

With the nursing director at West Midlands Ambulance Service warning ambulances will stop responding to 999 calls by August 17, the pressures on paramedics is likely to be a topic in the news for months to come.

Freedom of information data, obtained by the Scottish Tories, revealed that 40,166 emergency callers waited more than 120 minutes for paramedics in 2021/22. That is compared with around 17,300 in the the previous year, 14,800 in 2019/20 and just 4,438 in 2018/19.

The number of critically ill “red” or “purple” callers – including people suffering heart attacks and strokes – having to wait more than two hours has risen fivefold since 2018, the Evening Standard reports.


A new financial system, a plethora of currencies, and potentially plenty of money being invested has also made cryptocurrency an attractive bet for scammers and criminals, giving the police a new arena to investigate fraud and theft.

Norfolk police revealed it has confiscated six different types of cryptocurrency since 2017, including Bitcoin, ZCash, Stratis, Civic, OmiseGo and Basic Attention Tokens, according to the Eastern Daily Press.

Snooping cops

More than 200 police officers and staff have been caught illegally accessing photos of crime scenes, suspects and details of cases. Figures from police forces, reported in the Daily Mail, show 123 officers and 80 civilian staff were disciplined for breaching police rules on database security – nearly four people every week.

In South Wales, a civilian member of staff took footage from police body-worn video cameras and posted it on social media. Frequently officers and staff misused their access to police databases to snoop on family, colleagues and neighbours. At Devon and Cornwall Police, two officers got into trouble for looking up confidential details on their own children. And a Norfolk police officer resigned after they were caught using the Police National Computer to get details relating to a work colleague.

Empty buildings

Many public bodies have extensive property portfolios, not all of which will be needed or suitable for use (and this may become more of an issue due to increasing numbers of staff working from home). While leaving buildings empty may save money on running costs, there may be other costs involved.

More than 100 properties and pieces of land owned by the government are sitting unused, vacant or derelict, records obtained by Belfast Live reveal. In the past three years the cost to the public of maintaining and securing the disused sites hit more than £1.1million, according to details obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

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