Detail Data

The Detail Data project is a BIG Lottery NI funded partnership between NICVA and The Detail investigative journalism website.

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Food for Thought

Every day in school more than 100,000 children from low-income families in NI have access to a nutritional lunch funded by the Department of Education. But who fills that void for struggling families during the 8 week school break? 

More than one in four school age children are at risk of hunger during the summer holidays, according to new findings by Detail Data.

Voluntary organisations working with some of the most disadvantaged children fear that more than 100,000 kids – some as young as two - could be missing out on their main daily meal or existing on poor diets in July and August.

Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) policy officer, Ellen Finlay said: “Summer can be the hungriest time of the year. Many children and young people who rely on free school meals struggle to get enough to eat during the summer months. There are strict criteria for free school meal entitlement including being in receipt of certain benefits, a household earning cap of £16,190, being the child of an asylum seeker or if none of the above apply and a child presents at school hungry, then the school should, on humanitarian grounds, provide free school meals to the child”.

But that entitlement begins and ends at the school door with no government body filling the 44 day void during the holiday period when hard-pressed families may also have additional costs.

For Belfast-based asylum seeker Sipho Sibanda, whose child is in primary school, the summer “brings terrible hardship on families. You have to rely on food banks,” she explained. “We resort to toasted bread all the time because one can’t afford to provide for all the meal times and snacks in between.”

Detail Data has examined school meal statistics and also figures held by the Trussell Trust on foodbanks and our key findings include: The Trussell Trust has confirmed a 17% increase in children in NI using foodbanks during July and August compared to May and June.

The postcode area with the highest percentage of free school meal entitlement is BT12 - the Sandy Row and Village area of Belfast where 74% of children (3,863) will lose access to a free meal when schools close later this month.
 
198 children of asylum seeking families will miss out on a free daily meal during the summer holidays.
 
196 schools in the most disadvantaged areas offer breakfast provision meaning some kids may be missing out on two meals during summer.
 
1,799 two and three year olds who attend nursery full-time are entitled to free school meals.

For the full story click here

To view hte data that supports this story click here

 

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Mother and baby homes: the case for a public inquiry

THERE are growing calls from victims and campaigners for a public inquiry into Northern Ireland’s former mother and baby homes, with claims the findings would “shock this society to its core”.

Detail Data has examined archive documents and interviewed women and children who survived conditions in the homes for unmarried mothers that existed in Northern Ireland until the early 1980s – including institutions run by the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Salvation Army.

Files at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) include correspondence homes had with government departments, the minute book for one home and inspection records for a children’s home where some of the children would have moved to after their birth.

Pregnant girls as young as 13-years-old were sent into mother and baby homes and a letter from 1945 shows how the chairman of a home for unmarried mothers appealed for money and warned the government about the high infant mortality rate among "illegitimate" children.

Our research led us to look at the treatment more generally of children labelled as 'illegitimate' in Northern Ireland's recent past. Official records from 1942 show that the 'legitimate' infant mortality rate for Northern Ireland was 72 per 1,000 births - it was 157 for 'illegitimate' children.

An analysis of burial records for Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast and a search for death certificates means we can reveal that at least 43 babies of 63 children who died at two Belfast children’s homes in just one year, died from severe malnutrition.

The Executive Office has confirmed that an independently chaired inter-departmental group - jointly sponsored by the Executive Office and the Department of Health - has been established to take forward work relating to clerical child abuse and residents aged over 18 from mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries who fell outside the remit of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry. The group held its first meeting in March.

Amnesty International is calling for a “proper human rights compliant public inquiry” after receiving allegations from women of forced labour, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and the illegal adoption of babies in former mother and baby homes. 

Today Detail Data is publishing a series of articles at www.thedetail.tv/data

To view the data behind this story visit here

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Flaws exposed in plan to remove Northern Ireland’s peace walls

A GOVERNMENT commitment to “reduce, and remove, all interface barriers” by 2023 has been called into question after it emerged nearly one in five of the 116 structures are not included in the plan.

The pledge to remove so-called peace walls between unionist and nationalist communities was part of the May 2013 Together Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy which “reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society."

T:BUC was agreed in the aftermath of street protests and violence that erupted following the December 2012 decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall. Its publication came a month before a visit by the then US President Barack Obama who told an audience at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall that successfully removing the peacewalls, “more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond."

But despite the T:BUC pledge to remove "all interface barriers", experts predict the majority are likely to remain in place beyond 2023, while new data shows 21 structures are not even included in the Stormont target.

The peace walls were erected between communities during the Troubles to reduce violence in areas that suffered sustained conflict with many living in their vicinity fearful of any proposed removal.

Four years after T:BUC, Detail Data asked The Executive Office (TEO) for an update on the interface removal project.  A response said: "The exact number of interface barriers is subject to differing views as a result of varying approaches to counting and categorising barriers. Progress has been made but this isn't simply a numbers game, where we take down a wall and move on. Through our Together Building a United Community strategy, we are committed to reduce and remove all interface barriers by 2023.”

When pressed for further information on which structures were being targeted, TEO referred Detail Data to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Housing Executive (NIHE). DOJ said: “In the context of the Executive’s commitment around the removal of interface structures by 2023, a cross departmental programme board was established by the DOJ to take this work forward and that board agreed that these DOJ structures, along with structures which are the responsibility of the NI Housing Executive, would fall under its remit.”

Freedom of Information requests to both DOJ and NIHE confirmed that this relates to some 74 structures. However, a new report by the Belfast Interface Project (BIP), which will be published in the coming days, identifies 116 defensive walls, fences, gates and buffers located in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, Lurgan and Portadown. Research for the project was conducted by the Institute for Conflict Research (ICR).

Click to view full screen map

In the BIP report the DOJ/NIHE figure of 74 interface structures is said to be made up of 95 individual separate components. This, in part, is due to differences in how structures are identified and catalogued, with some ranging from walls stretching hundreds of metres to large planters and gates, or where barriers are made up of intermittent sections of wall or fence which could be counted as a single peace wall or as multiple structures.

Analysis of the ICR/BIP data confirms that despite the T:BUC pledge to remove "all interface barriers", some 21 structures will remain in place even if the Stormont target is achieved. These outstanding structures are controlled by organisations including Belfast City Council, Invest NI, Belfast HSC Trust, The Department for Infrastructure (DRD), private and unknown owners.

Detail Data asked The Executive Office how the T:BUC commitment to remove all barriers by 2023 could be met, given such omissions. However a response did not address the issue. Despite government assurances that "we are committed to reduce and remove all interface barriers by 2023", Belfast Interface Project (BIP) director Joe O’Donnell does not believe that many of the barriers can or will be removed in such a short timeframe. “I do not see the wall that runs between the Shankill and Falls being removed in six years," he said. “I don’t think it is particularly important if we miss the target date of 2023. I’m not sure now in 2017 that anyone considers that we are going to hit that target.”

According to the Housing Executive’s head of community cohesion Jennifer Hawthorne, although progress is being made, it is unlikely all of the structures that remain part of the 2023 target will be removed. “There is only 1% of the population of the city that live near a peace wall and if you extrapolate that out across Northern Ireland, the percentage of the overall population living beside a peace wall is miniscule – but we expect those communities to take the steps towards peace, to do all the heavy lifting and take all the risks for the benefit of wider society,” she said. “Once people are able to breach a wall with a pedestrian gate and maybe later a vehicle gate as a community becomes more confident then incrementally maybe it could come down. So 2023, yes all walls might not be removed but they could have changed quite a bit.”

To read the full story by Detail Data's Cormac Campbell, click here.

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Less than half of Northern Ireland babies are breastfed in hospital

More than 42,000 babies have left Northern Ireland’s hospitals since April 2012 without having attempted breastfeeding, Detail Data can reveal.

That figure equates to just under half of all newborns, according to an analysis of four years of Public Health Agency (PHA) data on the feeding status of infants.

And despite the Department of Health having adopted the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that a baby should exclusively breastfeed until six months – between April 2012 and March 2016, 93% of babies didn’t.

The PHA defines totally breastfeeding as exclusively receiving breast milk (including expressed) but not receiving formula milk or other liquids. In a bid to increase awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and improve its social acceptability, PHA is due to launch a major breastfeeding public awareness campaign this August.

Janet Calvert, PHA’s regional breastfeeding co-ordinator, told Detail Data: “It’s not just about sorting out the health service, although that is a key part of it. It’s creating supportive environments for breastfeeding across communities and within families, and shifting any bias, negative attitudes and misconceptions about breastfeeding. In Northern Ireland we have to move further along the journey of really valuing breastfeeding.”

Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the UK and research by The Lancet also indicates the UK’s breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in the world. “We are living in a bottle feeding culture. Most of us have grown up seeing babies bottle fed,” explained Mrs Calvert. “The way we feed babies has been historical and we need to change history now. We need to get more women in their families successfully breastfeeding so that they will influence decisions in the next generation.”

Detail Data examined the feeding status of 97,737 babies born between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2016.

The analysis found:

  • Breastfeeding was attempted prior to discharge from hospital with 56% of all babies.
  • 42,876 babies left hospital without having tried breastfeeding.
  • By discharge, the percentage of babies totally breastfeeding had fallen to 37%.
  • 24% of babies from the most deprived backgrounds were breastfeeding when leaving hospital compared to 51% from the least deprived.
  • 44% of babies born to mothers aged 35 to 39 years were breastfeeding at discharge compared to 17% of babies born to mothers under 20 years.

There can be many reasons why a mother chooses not to or can’t breastfeed including problems with attachment, supply, a lack of support and medical issues.

The PHA routinely reports breastfeeding figures by adding together the number of babies totally and partially breastfeeding. In 2014/15 those figures were 45% at discharge, 13% at six months and 7% at 12 months. However, as WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months – and the department has adopted that advice – Detail Data focused on those statistics.

The findings emerged from PHA data secured by Detail Data through a Freedom of Information request. The figures were sourced from the Northern Ireland Child Health System and the Northern Ireland Maternity System. It refers only to live births and Northern Ireland residents - 73 births recorded were not hospital births.

Detail Data visited a breastfeeding support group in Larne to hear firsthand from mothers about their breastfeeding journey.

The women had experience of exclusively breastfeeding, combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding and bottle feeding. Issues they had encountered included postpartum depression, mastitis, babies with tongue tie, low birth weight, hip dysplasia, problems getting their babies to latch, milk supply, lack of confidence and doubt.

Health visitor Helen Sherry, who works for Larne Parental Support Project, runs the breastfeeding peer support group in conjunction with Action for Children. She explained: “The support group offers them a friendly environment where they can come and breastfeed in comfort. We try to nurture the mothers so they in turn can look after the babies that they are feeding. They chat to me and then more importantly the other mothers and you just see them going out of that group as different people.”

According to mothers we interviewed the group has been crucial to their breastfeeding success.

Jillian McFaul, who bottle fed her first child and is breastfeeding her second, said: “This group has been a lifeline to keep me going.”

Laura McAllister, who has been breastfeeding her son for 15 months, commented: “I came in that first day and it was just such a relief to be reassured I was doing things right because I had been told I had to give formula, I had doubted myself.”

To read the full story click here

To access the data that supports the story click here

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PSNI urged to reconsider use of stop and search on under-18s

THE PSNI has used stop and search powers on under-18s nearly 25,000 times in the last five years, the vast majority of which do not result in any further action.

A Detail Data investigation has found that between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2016 a total of 23,323 operations were conducted that did not result in arrest - including 59 incidents involving children aged 10 and under.

The Police Ombudsman’s Office, which has received 370 complaints relating to stop and search over the last five years, said it hopes to launch an initiative in the coming weeks to address the concerns of young people which it says: “Come up time and time again."

In response, the PSNI defended the high use and low arrest rate arising from the tactic, stating that it is deployed with the aspiration of “Keeping people safe” and that “The PSNI is not out to criminalise young people and are open to other forms of disposal. There is no restriction in law preventing the stop and search of under 18s therefore police officers will use their powers under stop and search when they have reasonable grounds to suspect an item is being carried to keep both that individual and the wider community safe,” a police spokesperson said. We try to provide interventions to keep people out of the criminal justice system, to prevent them getting a criminal record which will have massive impacts on their future perspectives.”

Despite this rationale, the findings have prompted fresh calls from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children & Young People (NICCY) and rights based charity Include Youth for a re-evaluation of the use of stop and search on under-18s and greater transparency in relation to why, where and on whom it is used.

OUR KEY FINDINGS

  • More than 160,000 people, of all ages, were stopped and searched in the last five years. This resulted in an arrest rate of less than 7%.
  • Of the near 150,000 incidents that did not result in arrest, more than 23,000 were conducted on under-18s. This included nearly 60 on children aged 10 and under.
  • Drugs and related paraphernalia were recovered in more than 1,000 searches on under-18s. This included the discovery of cannabis on a child aged 1-5 in 2013.
  • A total of 780 under-18s were arrested in the last three years as a result of stop and search.
  • The Police Ombudsman has received 370 complaints relating to stop and search in this period. In just one case was an officer found to have behaved improperly.

Previously the under-18 stop and search data had been collated in a single age category. However, in the data file provided to Detail Data this section had been further broken down in to four units. This revealed that there were 11 incidents with children aged 1-5; 48 on children aged 6-10; 3,880 on children aged 11-14 and 19,384 on young people aged 15-17.

Age

Number of stop and searches in which no further action is taken

1-5 years

11

6-10 years

48

11-14 years

3880

15-17 years

19384

18-25 years

59320

26-35 years

31964

36-45 years

18375

46-55 years

10093

56-55 years

3083

65+ years

1085

Unknown

2521

TOTALS

149764

Analysis of the data provided reveals that drugs and associated paraphernalia (eg, syringes, bongs, grinders, deal bags) were recorded in more than 1,000 of the searches on under-18s. This included the discovery of cannabis and cash on a child aged 1-5 in April 2013.

Although the PSNI did not provide arrest information, analysis of data published on its website, when viewed in conjunction with the information provided to Detail Data, reveals that in the last three years (2013/14, 14/15 and 15/16) a total of 14,671 under-18s have been stopped and searched with 780 subsequently arrested. This represents an arrest rate of 5.3%.

For the full story click here

To view the data behind this story click here

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Government urged to call time on underage drinking

HUNDREDS of young people are being hospitalised, are ending up in custody, or are receiving long-term care as a result of problem alcohol use each year in Northern Ireland.

Leading charities, responding to the new findings have also revealed they are working with hundreds of children, some as young as 13, who are struggling with the impact of alcohol on their lives.

Campaigners have demanded government action to tackle dangerous levels of alcohol use among under-18s, with calls for the introduction of minimum pricing and legislation to force welfare provisions at large scale events such as concerts. Marie Wright of Start 360, an organisation that provides support to young offenders, said alcohol is a problem for the majority of young people in the juvenile justice system.

“A Queen's University Belfast evaluation report from 2005 found that nearly two thirds of participants (63%) admitted that their alcohol use was one of the reasons why they were in [Hydebank Young Offenders Centre]. This is still very much reflected in our own experience in the years since then,” Ms Wright said. “We work in the Juvenile Justice Centre at Woodlands, we also work in Hydebank. I would say, [for] the majority of young people who end up in custody, drugs and/or alcohol are a feature, probably in about 90% of the cases.”

The new research by Detail Data made a series of findings including:

  • Under-18s have been admitted to hospital on 655 occasions with alcohol related conditions in the past five years.
  • The year 2014/15 was the highest for alcohol-related hospital admissions for under-18s, recording 140 admissions.
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) seized alcohol from under 18s on 1,161 occasions in the past two years. This included seizures from children as young as 12.
  • There have been 153 prosecutions and just 57 convictions relating to minors at licensed premises in the past five years.
  • The number of off-licences has increased by nearly 60% since 1999. However, anyone hoping to secure a list of all licensed premises faces a convoluted process and a bill of over £1,000.
  • Hundreds of young people are receiving long-term care for alcohol addiction. The most recent data from a 2014 health census showed a total of 519 under 18s were receiving treatment for alcohol problems. The findings of a new census are due for release.

The Department of Health has confirmed plans for a public consultation “as soon as possible” on setting minimum prices for alcohol.

Historically, the overwhelming majority of alcohol licences were used to run pubs. And while this sector remains the largest in terms of licences held, in recent years huge numbers of licences have transferred to off-sales.

The pub industry’s representative body Hospitality Ulster estimates that the number of public houses fell from 1,624 in 1999 to 1,309 in 2015. Over the same period the number of off-sales increased from 360 to 568 in Northern Ireland. In recent years it has also become the norm for supermarkets to sell alcohol, often at prices that fall below the costs of other off-sales and pubs.

Last week Detail Data found supermarket prices on well known beers for as little as £1.52 a litre. The same quantity of the same beer in a Belfast pub costs more than £6. This stark change in the way the product is retailed has fuelled concerns that it is easier than ever for young people to access alcohol, including by way of proxy purchasing, which is where an adult purchases alcohol on behalf of someone who would not be permitted to buy it themselves.

But to help tackle the problem, campaigners are today reissuing calls for the introduction of a suite of measures including: minimum pricing, compulsory support services at major events, greater transparency in relation to the publication of licensing information, and the allocation of more police resources towards tackling the problem of underage drinking.

The call for police action comes as new figures obtained using Freedom of Information legislation shows that the number of police seizures has fallen since a recent shake-up in the shape of police districts. The number of police districts was changed from seven to 11 to match the reform of local government in Northern Ireland which created 11 new council areas in 2015. A sample of a ten month period under the old police district structure in 2014 against the corresponding ten month period following the creation of 11 police districts revealed seizures from underage drinkers more than halved from 723 to 320.

SOS NI is a charity based on Christian beliefs that offers a mobile bus based service where trained volunteers and medical staff help people in crisis when socialising at night. According to Joe Hyland, the charity’s chief executive, some young people are drinking huge amounts. “At a recent event we had three youngsters, one aged 13, who drank a 10 glass bottle of vodka and their life was seriously under threat,” he said. “In the last 10 months in the entertainment events side we would have encountered something like 400 young people. And of those, probably a good 60%-70% would have been underage."

To read the full story click here

To access the data supporting this story click here

Details of available support services for individuals seeking help for drug and alcohol problems can be found here.

The findings of the Detail Data report will be discussed on a new Irish language programme ‘An Focal Scoir’ which will be broadcast on BBC2 NI tonight (13/3/17) at 10pm. 

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Detail Data Conference: Open Data for Funding, Citizens and Services

Last week’s Detail Data conference on the use of open data for funding, citizens and services attracted over 60 people from the VCSE, public and private sectors.

A diverse range of speakers provided real insights into the benefits of and opportunities for open data, with an emphasis on how sectors could work together to realise these. The conference also involved audience interaction to gauge the level of knowledge of open data. 

So what is open data?

Open Data is defined by the Open Data Institute (ODI) as data that anyone can access, use or share. It is non-personal data, usually released by government, which enables small businesses, citizens and researchers to develop resources which make improvements to communities. In 2015 an Open Data Strategy for Northern Ireland was launched, containing the framework and principles by which we aim to build capacity for delivering open data in Northern Ireland. The implementation of this strategy will create an ‘open by default’ culture whereby the publishing of open data becomes part of everyday management practices. The strategy covers all of the Northern Ireland public sector.

So what was the knowledge in the room?

On a scale from one to 10 (one being no knowledge) the level of knowledge of open data was 5.1.  The audience were also asked why the attended the conference. 69% of the audience were keen to learn something new from the event while 18% stated that they wanted to be inspired and feedback so far has indicated that this was achieved. 

So what were the key messages of the day?

Five key notes speakers provide a broad range of clear messages on where and how open data can be used. Read more about it in our Storify:

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Stormont threat to lifeline for rural communities

A SCHEME that has provided more than 216,000 journeys in the past year to help people living in isolated rural areas, including the elderly and those with disabilities, is under threat due to Stormont cuts and policy change.

More than 24,000 health appointments were attended in the last year by people with no access to public transport or a car – thanks to the door-to-door transport scheme run by 11 Rural Community Transport Partnerships across Northern Ireland.

The service’s main government funding has been cut by 33% since 2014, wiping more than £1million from the overall community transport budget for Northern Ireland. Now two Stormont departments - Infrastructure and Agriculture - have told Detail Data they cannot guarantee that further cuts won't be made.

Tim Cairns, director of policy and public affairs at the Community Transport Association Northern Ireland and who until recently worked at the heart of government as a special advisor to the First Minister, said: “I know what is wasted across government, it is little wonder people get angry at how decisions are made and money is squandered in their area. I think across the voluntary sector government has chosen a lot of low hanging fruit when they’re making cuts. It’s easier to cut from the voluntary sector than it is to make tough choices in government."

New data has revealed how the not-for-profit community service known as Dial-A-Lift ensured that some of the most vulnerable members of society could attend medical appointments, as well as routine shopping trips and outings credited with combating isolation. Dial-A-Lift is run by 11 Rural Community Transport Partnerships operating in eight areas across Northern Ireland. It is funded mainly by Stormont's Department for Infrastructure (DfI), with support from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), though supporters argue that the service reduces the burden on the health sector. Both the Infrastructure and Health departments are controlled by Sinn Fein ministers, Chris Hazzard and Michelle O'Neill.

Mr Cairns said: “It’s absolutely scandalous that the Department of Health get the biggest benefit from community transport and yet pay nothing from their budget for the operating cost of this service.”

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard told Detail Data: "I recently wrote to the Health Minister, Michelle O'Neill to suggest a meeting to discuss the potential for her department and the health trusts to consider helping to part grant fund the Rural Community Transport Partnerships.This request was based on the increasing demand on Rural Community Transport Providers to help with the emerging requirements for health related transport. I hope to meet with Michelle O'Neill in the near future on this issue."

However, a Department of Health spokesperson said: "The department is aware of the valuable service which Rural Community Transport organisations provide to people living in areas where regular transport links are difficult to access.The HSC itself commits substantial funding from its scare resources to provide transport for patients and social care service users. Any additional commitments could only be met by reducing resources for front line service across health and social care and this is not feasible."

In total 216,000 trips covering 2.5 million miles were facilitated by community transport providers across Northern Ireland in the year up to April 2016. Community transport, which currently receives a £2.4million annual grant from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) through the Rural Transport Fund (RTF), uses a fleet of minibuses and voluntary car drivers to give people in rural areas access to work, education, healthcare, shopping and recreational activities. However, the vital provision - which is predominantly used by the elderly and people with disabilities to access a wide range of services - is under review as part of Stormont proposals to change how public transport is delivered here. 

Previously unpublished data obtained from DfI by Detail Data shows the lifeline that the 11 rural community transport partnerships are providing for members. Figures covering the period from April 2015 to the end of March 2016 reveal:

  • 34% of trips were provided by a network of unpaid volunteers, the majority using their own cars to take people on trips including collecting benefits, getting shopping and visiting loved ones in nursing homes.

  • Almost 31,000 trips were to enable people, many with learning disabilities, to access education, training or employment.

  • 58% of all trips taken were by elderly users.

  • Almost half of all trips were made by people with disabilities.

  • Three out of four trips were taken by women.

  • Almost 6,000 trips were for hospital appointments.

To see detailed figures and more information on each of the rural community transport providers click here.

Detail Data spent three days with Fermanagh Community Transport and Magherafelt based Out and About Community Transport to see firsthand who relies on community transport.

During our shadowing of the service providers Detail Data also saw users supporting the local economy by spending money in chemists, grocery stores, tearooms, post offices, newsagents and using local health services. Detail Data has also tracked and mapped all the journeys made by Fermanagh Community Transport vehicles on a day in October to highlight the service it is providing in one of the most rural parts of Northern Ireland.

Anita Flanagan, manager of Fermanagh Community Transport, said: “Our services are vital to people who live in deep rural areas. Without Fermanagh Community Transport many of our members would be unable to access basic services such as shops, post office and chemist. Many people would have to ring for an ambulance if they were unable to access Fermanagh Community Transport services to see the GP. “As local services close and rural banks/post offices and health related services become more centralised, our members are finding it even more difficult to access essential services.”

Out and About manager Ashley Keane said: “For most of our users it’s a real lifeline. Where people live there is no bus running past their door like you would have in the urban centres every five, 10, 15 minutes. With recent cuts by Translink even some of those rural services have been cut dramatically or completely. We provide so much more than just the transport. It’s a listening ear, a befriending service. There are a lot of elderly people who don’t have family members, there’s no car sitting outside the door so there is no other option for them.”

Community transport users we met include an elderly woman in Maghera who lives alone, miles from her nearest bus stop and is recovering from a hip replacement; a Lisnaskea woman who can’t drive but depends on the minibus to take her to the home of her 98-year-old mother whom she cares for and a young Roslea woman with learning disabilities who makes the 50-mile round trip to her nearest further education college in Enniskillen.

May McCaffrey (78) lives three-quarters of a mile up a lane of a minor road near Derrygonnelly and told us “without Fermanagh Community Transport I would not get out of the house from Sunday to Sunday”.

Thomas Miller, who has sight problems, stated the service is “vital” because of the lack of public transport. The Castledawson pensioner added: “It’s the company more than anything else.”

To read the full story and view service users experience of rural communtiy transport click here

To view the data behind the story click here

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Waking up to Waste: How Northern Ireland's waste problem could leave a toxic legacy

Northern Ireland's waste is leaving a "toxic legacy"

Northern Ireland is producing more than two million tonnes of waste each year, with campaigners claiming that inadequate government policies could create a toxic legacy for future generations.

Detail Data today reports on how Stormont is struggling to cope with the discovery of more than two million tonnes of illegally dumped waste in the past decade, nearly 6,000 incidents of fly-tipping a year, plus the burning of nearly 400,000 tyres in fires at recycling plants since 2009.

Using data from a number of sources, including the Courts, the NI Fire and Rescue Service, Councils and Assembly Questions, we have found that:

  • More than two million tonnes of waste has been found in illegal or unapproved landfills.
  • DAERA confirmed the location of 66 illegal dumps between 2006 and 2015, containing more than 724,000 tonnes of waste.
  • The Department estimate total disposal costs for these 66 sites is more than £22.3million.
  • 177 people were convicted of waste offences between 2012 and 2015.
  • Last year councils tackled nearly 6,000 incidents of fly-tipping, where waste was deposited onto land which had no licence to accept it.
  • The Northern Ireland Environment Agency spent £1.3 million clearing 600 fly-tipping incidents between 2012 and 2015, in addition to council expenditure dealing with fly-tipping, 
  • Nearly £1million was spent clearing more than 2,500 tonnes of waste related to fuel laundering between June 2012 and October 2014.
  • Between August 2009 and March 2016 more than 400,000 tyres burned in fires at recycling facilities.
  • 26 fires were recorded at recycling facilities between August 2009 and March 2016. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said that tackling the blazes cost £365,000.
  • ​Each year councils spend more than £165million of public money collecting and disposing of nearly one million tonnes of (legally disposed of) rubbish, including £40million on litter alone.

Friends of the Earth director James Orr believes that the scale of illegal dumping, coupled with the prospect of Brexit and the potential future loss of European Union environmental safeguards has brought government to a crossroads:

“To clean up these (illegal) sites could potentially bankrupt Northern Ireland, but not cleaning up these sites leaves a toxic legacy and we cannot pass on this toxic legacy to future generations."

Perhaps the first visible indication of this is litter, which according to Ian Humphreys of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful costs £80million a year.

“We have a £40million street cleansing bill, which as ratepayers we are covering each year,” said.

“We also know, from independent research, of another £40million cost to society through things like health and wellbeing, impact on tourism, investment and so on.”

To read the full article by Detail Data's Cormac Campbell, click here.

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Living with HIV in Northern Ireland

NEW statistics show that 934 people are now known to be living with HIV in Northern Ireland – the highest number ever on record.

Eighty-one men and 22 women were diagnosed during 2015, bringing the total being treated for the virus which damages the immune system to almost three times what it was in 2006.

The 103 cases of HIV diagnosis last year is the highest number ever to be recorded in a single year. It is estimated that hundreds more do not know that they have HIV.

Detail Data has examined the newly released 2015 HIV surveillance data for the UK and, in a joint project with the dedicated HIV charity Positive Life, we tell the stories of five people living with the virus in Northern Ireland. They told us that they live with a condition still heavily affected by stigma and misunderstanding.

Of all the people currently living with HIV, the probable exposure category for 58% was sex between men. In 38% of cases, it was heterosexual contact. Less than 1% are thought to have been infected as a result of injecting drug use, although sex between men includes men who also reported injecting drug use.

Jacquie Richardson, chief executive of Positive Life, said that a new Sexual Health Promotion Strategy and public information campaign is needed. The Assembly's last strategy ran out in December last year. The charity has established an online petition calling for action.

“Positive Life are calling for and lobbying hard for a sexual health strategy because without it we don’t see any investment and we think it’s really, really important that money is put into education so that young people know how to look after themselves and know how to take charge of their own sexual health,” she said. “We also would like to see investment in public awareness raising and campaigns to challenge the old stigmas and the old perceptions of the 1980s and bring people right up to speed with HIV and what HIV means to people living with it in Northern Ireland. The fact that 103 more people have been diagnosed with HIV is very worrying and strengthens the argument that we need a new strategy. We need to raise awareness and encourage people to look after their own sexual health."

Dr Say Quah, Consultant in Genitourinary Medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, backed the call for a new strategy. He said: “Year on year, there is an increase in the number of people diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea. Poor sexual health is a significant burden on the wellbeing of people living in Northern Ireland. We have many health and social care organisations and volunteer sector organisations that can contribute greatly to improve sexual health care – but we need our Assembly to set a strategic direction so that services can be developed in tandem with health promotion with a common goal of collaboration between all stakeholders.”

To read the full story click here

To access the data click here

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