You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 29/3/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 29/3/2024 – #FOIFriday

Another weekly round-up of Freedom of Information requests making the news. This week is a combo of classics (never events and nicked bikes) and some requests that dig deeper into current issues.

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SEN assessments

Schools are far more likely than parents to have requests for education health and care plans (EHCPs) approved by councils, new research has revealed.

Freedom of information data collected from councils by Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) shows that 20 per cent of school and college applications for the statutory SEND support plans were rejected, compared with 51 per cent of parental requests.

Researchers claim the findings counter what they say is a growing narrative, including from councils and government, that “sharp-elbowed” parents are driving up demand.

Never events

A string of surgical errors at south Essex hospitals have been revealed including one incident where a cancer patient’s surgery was carried out on the wrong part of the body. A freedom of information request to the Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust – which manages Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals – revealed a number of “never events” occurred between April 1 and December 31 last year.

Never events are classified as “preventable errors that should never be made”. In one incident, a patient had a lumpectomy, a procedure to remove potentially cancerous cells at “the wrong site”.

The FOI, requested by medical negligence solicitors, Blackwater Law, revealed there were also three separate incidents of patients having the wrong skin lesion removed. Removing the wrong lesion could lead a patient to be exposed to a potentially cancerous lesion for longer than necessary.

Attacks on rail staff

Rail workers say they have been spat at, punched and attacked as figures suggest violent assaults against staff and police officers on the train network are at a four-year high.

A Freedom of Information request by BBC South East shows that 4,088 attacks were recorded at railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales last year. Of all the train providers, Southeastern had the most reports of violence, with 438 incidents in 2023.

The number of assaults recorded by police in 2023 was nearly 10% higher than pre-pandemic in 2019, despite a 11% reduction in passenger numbers.

Nicked electric bikes

Some of this might be down to more electric bikes being out there, but it might also reflect that electric bikes might be a more attractive target than pedal bikes.

Police data has revealed that there were 103 per cent more electric bike thefts in the last year compared to 2022, and a whopping 257 per cent more than in 2021.

Evolve e-Bikes submitted a Freedom of Information request to every police force in the UK for data on the number of thefts of e-bikes. They also downloaded data from the UK Police Data hub, for insight on regular pedal bike thefts since 2021.

Overall, pedal bike thefts actually fell by 15 per cent in 2023, which is in sharp contrast to the huge jump in thefts of e-bikes.

Airport crime

Kicking a police officer, brandishing a knife and being drunk and abusive are just some of the crimes committed at Birmingham Airport in the last three years. Arrests have increased 31 per cent at Birmingham International Airport, which is UK’s fourth biggest airport, since 2021.

Figures obtained from West Midlands Police via Freedom of Information requests reveal the true extent of arrests at Birmingham and on aircrafts. A total of 954 arrests were made between 2021 and 2024 including theft, disruptive passengers and assault.

Weak bridge?

Devon and Cornwall are among councils with the most substandard bridges in Britain, according to research by the RAC Foundation. In Cornwall, 10% of bridges were substandard, with Devon seeing 8%.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were submitted to 201 councils, with 122 (61%) responding, it said. Devon County Council (DCC) said many “substandard” bridges were historic or had weight restrictions. Cornwall Council has been asked for a comment.

No buses

Getting around Kent by bus was very hard work 15 years ago (I made a chart), but it’s getting worse.

The number of council-supported bus routes in Kent has more than halved in the past 10 years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. Local authorities provide funding for services that are not considered commercially viable by private companies, but new figures show the number of subsidised routes has dwindled in parts of the South East.

Since the Covid pandemic, commercial operators have cut back services, blaming reduced passenger numbers and rising costs. There were 75 routes subsidised by Kent County Council last year, compared to 167 in 2013/14.

Image by Masood Aslami on Pexels

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