You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 22/3/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 22/3/2024 – #FOIFriday

Information is a broad concept within the Freedom of Information.

It can mean numbers or statistics taken from a public body’s database. It can be emails, messages and WhatsApps (if you can get ’em) about official business. It can be unpublished reports. It might be pictures of a footballer statue.

So what are people getting out of public bodies this week…

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Hospital discharge to homelessness

Cancer and stroke patients are among thousands of people being discharged from NHS hospitals every year with nowhere to live, The Independent can reveal. People recovering from major surgery are also among those who have been released from care to “no fixed abode”, the designation for people with no home address.

Data obtained from around half of NHS trusts by The Independent shows at least 4,200 people were discharged to “no fixed abode” in 2022/23. 1,461 separate additional instances where people were discharged with nowhere to live were also recorded by trusts that year.

A government spokesperson said that ‘no one should be discharged from hospital to the streets’

Homeless veterans

More than 1,300 veterans have been put at risk of homelessness since 2019. One of the worst performing areas was Plymouth where 48 veterans were in danger of losing their homes since 2019.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests show the number of ex-forces personnel on the brink of losing their homes through Section 21 eviction notices has soared since 2019. In 2019, 222 veterans were put at risk of homelessness due to a Section 21 but rising to 350 last year, a 57% increase. The total hit 1,333 over this Parliament.

Trainees facing harassment

A secret report has warned that the NHS is failing to protect trainee paramedics from widespread sexual harassment and racism at work, The Independent can reveal.

Examples of racist and sexist behaviour between colleagues include:

  • One male paramedic touching a student inappropriately on multiple occasions – including her groin and breast – and making sexually inappropriate comments such as: “That has got me going”
  • Incidents reported at one trust that included Blackface at a work fancy-dress party, making monkey sounds, and even laughing at colleagues unable to eat during Ramadan
  • A male paramedic asking a student to go to a hotel room and saying: “Women don’t have gag reflexes”
  • One racism complaint not being taken forward because the staff member was deemed to be simply “set in their ways”
  • A student who complained about bullying and a “toxic environment” being moved to another station, while the mentor was given a new student straight away
  • One professor telling a trainee: “We’re not going to change the culture … so we try to protect our students from the worst”

The national report, which is understood to have gone through several edited versions and is marked commercially sensitive, was not due to be released until The Independent obtained the document through a freedom of information request.

Missed cancer diagnoses

The number of NHS patients suing over missed cancer diagnoses has increased by half in the past two years, statistics have revealed.

Incorrect or delayed cancer diagnoses have cost the NHS £81.5 million in damages and legal fees between April 2021 and March 2023, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats.

The number of claims brought against the NHS for missed cancer diagnosis rose from a yearly average of 140 between 2017 and 2021 to 208 per year from 2021 to 2023 – a jump of 49 per cent.

Student debt

The highest outstanding student debt in the UK is more than £230,000, data obtained by BBC News reveals. The largest repayment a graduate has made tops £110,000, the figures show, with another loan holder accumulating interest alone of nearly £55,000.

The data was released by the Student Loans Company (SLC) following a BBC Freedom of Information (FOI) request. SLC says graduates in England leave university with average debts of £44,940.

Council tax debt

More than £43million is now owed to Bolton Council in unpaid council tax amid soaring cost-of-living pressures faced by people all over the borough. But the Freedom of Information figures show that £43,865,112.40 in total is already owed, broken down to different sums by different council wards.

The most council tax was owed by households in Halliwell, where a total of £4,086,665.76 was unpaid. More than £3million was also owed in the now defunct Crompton ward, which covered much of the central area of the town, where a total of £3,192,875.10 was owed.

Farnworth, which has since had its ward boundaries redrawn, was the only other ward to pass the £3million mark, with a total of £3,376,833.34 in unpaid council tax.

Harry Kane statue

Waltham Forest Council allocated £7,200 in 2019 and 2020 to have the work made of Chingford-raised footballer Harry Kane, but it has been kept in storage since.

Pictures of the statue, depicting Kane sat on a green bench with a football on his knee, then emerged following a Freedom of Information request by The Big Issue.

Councillors have said said the statue would go on public display in the borough later this year.

Kicked in doors

The PSNI spent close to £20,000 in the last year on fixing damaged doors that had wrecked during police ops.

Figures obtained by Belfast Live through a Freedom of Information request showed that from January 1, 2023 to March 6, 2024, the force has spent £19,719.39 on “repair of property doors which have been damaged during police operations”.

In response to the FOI, a PSNI spokesperson said while damage is “not our intention”, it can happen on some occasions.

Picture by Daria Nepriakhina on Pexels

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