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A day in FoIA: Closing school’s breakfast clubs, lack of police support for forced marriage victims, Rosemary Agnew: Right to information is vital for society, taxpayers footing the bill for hefty salaries at agency

School budget cuts spell hunger for many pupils as breakfast clubs close

A growing number of breakfast clubs in primary schools are being forced to close because of budget cuts, despite evidence of increasing demand. As the academic year gets under way, the cuts risk leaving many vulnerable children in danger of going to school hungry and unable to concentrate in lessons, according to experts.

Requests made under freedom of information law to 128 local authorities by the Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for children and families, found 40% reporting a decrease in the number of breakfast clubs.

Some of the cuts are severe. Essex county council said the county had 219 breakfast clubs in schools last year, but 169 this year. In Surrey, 2,870 children were being given breakfast last year but only 1,200 in 2012.

Read more.

Jay Rayner | The Guardian | September 15th 2012

Charities slam lack of police support for forced marriage victims

Charities supporting victims of forced marriage have hit out at police and local authorities in Wales for not doing enough to encourage victims to come forward.

It comes as a Freedom of Information request, submitted by Wales on Sunday, found just two people contacted Dyfed Powys Police for help in three years.

North Wales Police refused to say how many forced marriage referrals it had received between April 2009 and March 2012, but it is understood just one person came forward in that time.[confirmed by freedom of information officer]

Read more.

Clare Hutchinson | Wales Online | September 16th 2012

Rosemary Agnew: Right to information is vital for society

IN THE week of publication of the ­Independent Hillsborough Panel ­Report, which reflected that the “wound of grief was still sore because so many questions were yet unanswered”, none of us can be left in any doubt about the strength of the public need for rights to information.

The devastating impact of alteration of records is central to the Hillsborough report. This same issue is, right now, the subject of deliberation by MSPs as they consider the new Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. If passed, this bill will strengthen my enforcement powers in cases of alteration of records by any public official trying to prevent disclosure under FOI by allowing a more realistic time period for prosecution of this serious criminal offence. Thankfully, these cases are rare, but their impact is potentially severe.

I welcome the objectives of the new bill to strengthen and clarify our FOI legislation. In my evidence last week to the ­finance committee, I stressed that in most cases I am supportive of the tidying exercise underway. If passed, plans to reduce the time limits where exemptions can be applied and to redraft some of the more opaque provisions will improve our freedom of information regime for the better.

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Rosemary Agnew | Scotsman | September 16th 2012

Philip Ryan: Taxpayers footing the bill for hefty salaries at agency

OPERATING under a veil of secrecy, Nama has continually refused to divulge details of how it spends millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

The State’s “bad bank” has fought tooth and nail against attempts made by the media and opposition politicians to gain a clearer understanding of how the agency is spending our money.

The State’s super-quango is exempt from scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act and senior staff are said to be vehemently opposed to the organisation coming under legislation currently being drawn up by the Government.

Read more.

Philip Ryan | Irish Independent | September 16th 2012



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