The government and local authorities are failing to identify vulnerable children who are being denied an education illegally, a Guardian investigation has found.
Experts fear thousands of under-16s are falling out of the system after being “unofficially excluded” from schools.
Councils have a statutory duty to provide full-time education to children in their borough – an obligation strengthened by the government in 2011. Since then there has been mounting evidence that some schools are using unofficial exclusions to push children out.
Local authority education staff say cuts to their resources are making it difficult to track these cases.
Freedom of information requests from the Guardian have established that the Department for Education (DfE) is not collecting figures nor monitoring local authorities’ performance, despite warnings from both Ofsted and the local government ombudsman in the last two years that it was an area of concern. Read more.
John Domokes | The Guardian | 15th November 2012
Five detectives are being questioned in an anti-corruption probe into the alleged manipulation of crime statistics to meet detection targets.
Kent police said on Thursday the officers – understood to be a detective inspector, detective sergeant and three detective constables – had been arrested “over allegations of administrative irregularities” relating to prisoners.
The quality of crime detection statistics was questioned recently in an investigation by BBC Radio 4′s Law in Action, which revealed that the practice of asking prisoners to admit TICs accounted for 69,000 offences in 2010. The figures – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – showed that TICs accounted for 35% of domestic burglaries. Read more.
Sandra Laville | The Guardian | 15th November 2012
Transport for London is locked in a bizarre secrecy battle after refusing to reveal the speed of Victoria line trains on the grounds of “national security”.
The Mayor’s transport agency has appealed to three judges to block the release of data that it says would make it easier to mount a terror attack on the Tube, such as the July 7 bombings in 2005 that killed 52 innocent passengers.
TfL says safety concerns about evacuating passengers, providing access for emergency crews and being able to move trains out of danger are “exacerbated” on the Victoria line – the only Tube line to run entirely underground.
It is believed to be the first time since the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act 12 years ago that TfL, which receives about 2,000 requests a year, has appealed against a commissioner’s ruling. Read more.
Ross Lydall | The Evening Standard | 15th November 2012
Children trying to escape problems at home or school by running away are rising at alarming rates in Northamptonshire, a charity said.
The statistics collated by Railway Children from Freedom of Information requests to Northamptonshire Police show the number of Under 18s reported missing was 885 in 2008 then 1,827 in 2011. Charity bosses said they expected the numbers to increase again by the end of 2012.
But it also warned the true statistics will actually be even greater and urged the parents to tackle the issue at its cause, by talking to their children. Read more.
Nick Spoors | Northamptonshire Echo | 15th November 2012
Council staff are being paid through limited companies in arrangements described as “tax avoidance” , The Daily Telegraph reports. A Freedom of Information request by the BBC Radio 4′s File on 4 programme revealed that nearly 100 highly paid positions are being filled using deals which allow public servants to make their own tax arrangements rather than use the PAYE system.
Public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge told The BBC that the situation was a “tax avoidance scheme, which is totally wrong…I think they [HMRC] have to be more ambitious, I think they’ve got to work harder, and I think they’ve got to do better at getting that money in.”
Hackney Council had the highest number, with 39 people in permanent posts paid through external companies. The arrangements means individuals are taxed and pay national insurance at lower rates.
The Local Government Association said councils adhere to strict HMRC rules. Chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said councils had a “responsibility to employ skilled staff in a way that provided good value to residents”.
NHS reform plans changing GP priorities
NHS records revealed through a Freedom of Information request show that GPs are spending as little as one day a week seeing patients as they are busy setting up organisations for the health reforms, The Guardian and the Independent report. Figures released as part of a request made by False Economy, a trade union-backed research group, show family doctors are devoting most of their time to setting up clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the groups of family doctors that will replace PCTs in commissioning and paying for treatments on behalf of patients from April 2013.
More women fail driving test, DSA FOI reveals
Official figures from the Driving Standards Agency indicate that women are more likely than men to fail their driving test. The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that examiners recorded 1,660,206 errors by candidates that were serious enough to mean a failed test – 718,244 by men and 941,962 by women. The report described in the Telegraph also outlines the reasons for failure and suggests that women are more likely than men to fail for errors in reverse parking and inadequate observation.
Broadmoor patients seek thousands in compensation
Six of Britain’s most notorious killers and rapists at the Broadmoor high security hospital have received £64,000 in compensation in the past five years. In total, 17 patients have sued Broadmoor since 2006, a Freedom of Information response from the West London Mental Health Trust revealed. The most recent two cases won £7,500 in compensation after hurting themselves opening windows. Speaking to The Daily Mirror reports, a spokesperson from West London NHS Trust said: “Patients are entitled to claim damages for clinical and non-clinical negligence.”
Shisha bar rise despite smoking ban
There has been a rise of 210% in shisha bars across the UK since the smoking ban was put into place, the Independent reports. Freedom of information data collected by the British Heart Foundation from 133 local authorities in large towns and cities shows there were 179 shisha bars in 2007, rising to 556 now. According to the BBC report, the World Health Organisation has advised that a 40-minute session on a waterpipe is the equivalent to the volume of smoke inhaled from at least 100 hundred cigarettes.