FOI ideas image: Yarn Deliveries

FOI FRIDAY: Murder warnings, data protection, hospital art – and asking for documents

FOI ideas image: Yarn Deliveries

Getting the background on cuts

A good example of why it always pays to ask for the documents related to important spending decisions. An organisation called the Friends of Sonning Common Library is fighting to keep its library, one of three Oxfordshire County Council wants to close. It used FOI to ask for the documents the council had prepared related to the closure, and when these arrived, they revealed that the council felt closing them would “not fully address socio-economic need” and “not fully address rural isolation”. In other words – people will be left more isolated. (Source: Henley Standard)

Police data protection breaches

Data protection breaches revelations were all the rage a couple of years ago, but here’s proof that they are still happening. The Sunday Sun in the North East reports on 100 cases of data protection breaches in the region, including one case where a community support officer is accused of passing on details to criminals. (Source: Sunday Sun)

Rugby v cricket v football

Wales on Sunday used FOI well to get hold of the amount of money paid out in grants to football, rugby union and cricket from the Welsh government. While it probably came as no surprise that rugby union received £1.5million, it did cause shock that welsh cricket received even more – while football in Wales got just £7,735. Given the scrutiny of public money at the moment, asking councils how much they have given in grants to different sports could generate good stories. (Source: Wales on Sunday)

A different takes on dangerous dog attacks

The BBC in Suffolk had a different take on the FOI about the number of dog attacks reported by police and the FOI about the number of dogs the police had destroyed – it stitched them together. According to the BBC, there is a presumption in law that dogs involved in attacks will be destroyed, but combining the two FOIs meant the BBC could prove that was anything but the case.

Pensioner crimes

Why include this FOI given I’ve mentioned it several times before? Well, apart from the fact it is the gift which keeps on giving, I thought I’d flag up the Reading Post’s treatment of the story – particularly uploading and linking to  the pdf document sent by the police. Including the source documents from an FOI request is often a good way to get people more involved in a story. (Source: getreading)

Hospital art

OK, so The Sun’s take on public spending is very clear: too much spent, too often badly, but this FOI across the country asking hospital trusts how much they have spent on art in recent years could be worth investigating locally. After all, if primary care trusts are having to cut services they provide, surely questions should be asked about spending on art in hospitals, given that PCTs pay hospitals to perform operations? (Source: The Sun)

Paupers funerals

In the week when we learnt how many children were living in severe poverty, a sad FOI-based story about pensioners in poverty. The News and Star in Carlisle has reported on the number of pauper funerals in Cumbria – 50 in three years, with the numbers rising each year. Tragically, 11 of the funerals were for stillborn babies. (Source: Carlisle News and Star)

The cost of crime on schools

The cost of break-ins, vandalism and arson attacks in Greater Manchester is £6.5million, the Manchester Evening News reported this week. The paper obtained details of insurance claims made by councils on behalf of schools in the various boroughs which make up Greater Manchester. The level of detail released shows which crimes cost the most. (Source: Manchester Evening News)

Crimes involving Facebook

A good example of getting police to search their databases based on keywords. The Teesside Evening Gazette asked Cleveland Police to release the number of times Facebook had been mentioned when people were reporting crimes to the police. 1,770 crimes involved Facebook in 2010, up 481 on 2009. (Source: Teesside Gazette)

Warned about murder plots

And finally for this week, police keep a log of when they have to warn people about suspected murder plots against them. In the North East, the Sunday Sun was able to report on 200 cases thanks to FOI, including plots against gang members and drug dealers. The warnings are called ‘Osman Warnings.’

2 comments

  1. I find the Cumbrian pauper funeral FOI of particular interest. Many decades ago I both worked in the Health Service and was licenced by the Bishop of Carlisle to bury ashes in consecrated ground. Looking at the figures, I suspect that the number of pauper funerals were much higher in the 1970s than they are now. As regards your comment that “Tragically, 11 of the funerals were for stillborn babies” I read it that there were just four stillborn babies, and the remainder were pre-term babies (of 16+ weeks gestation). In my experience the expectant mothers (particularly those without family or partner support) who lose their babies or encounter terminations, do not always “cope” or experience grief and loss in the same way that adult bereavement is dealt with. Hence, the high figure.

    A classic example is the young single mum who appears ambivalent about both her pregnancy and the subsequent loss through stillbirth or failure to go to full term. Although financially solvent, her immediate emotional reaction is to do a runner (and that includes not paying for or arranging a funeral). Many years later, after having given birth to other children, she is capable of acknowledging the loss and contacts the hospital in an act (many times unconsciously) of reconciliation. She’s often comforted to know that her current children’s eldest brother or sister was, following the death, dealt with lovingly and with dignity, including a religious funeral with flowers. Those acts of reconciliation are dealt with sensitively and in confidence. As with so many other aspects of the NHS, they don’t show up in statistics (and are rarely valued by the bean-counter bureaucrats).

    Yes, this week we learnt how many children are living in severe poverty but, ironically, I’ve found that the poorer the family, the more is spent on superfluous trimmings for the funeral.

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