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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Major overhaul of family courts could achieve better outcomes for children

COURTS should become the last resort for separated families, according to reforms proposed in the biggest shake-up of the family justice system in almost 20 years.

In a wide ranging interview with Detail Data, Lord Justice John Gillen - who is heading the Review of Family and Civil Justice - said: “There is no doubt that solving problems outside court is a key component of this report.”

However, it will be up to politicians at Stormont to implement the judge’s recommendations, which he believes could radically improve outcomes for families and children. In his first media interview since the publication of the 250-page draft Family Justice Report, Lord Justice Gillen said a cultural change was needed so more families reached agreement outside of court. 

As part of the review Justice Gillen liaised with experts from around the world including New Zealand where separating couples are not allowed to go to court until they have engaged in a parenting discussion. “At that discussion children are absolutely kept to the fore,” the senior judge explained. “That is a cultural change and it’s challenging but it has to be done because unless we have this inclusive approach, whereby parents and those who are separating realise that the court system is but one method of resolving your difficulties, we are going to go on the way we have been going.” His review highlighted problems with major delay and inefficiency in court proceedings, budget cuts, too many court hearings, and no formal training structure for family court judges.

Previous research by Detail Data found that Northern Ireland’s family courts made more than 24,000 decisions impacting on thousands of children’s lives between September 2012 and August 2015 alone. An analysis of that data from the Family Proceedings Court, Family Care Centre and the High Court by Detail Data also revealed that 10,206 contact and residence orders were made during that timeframe – almost half of all orders. Orders for ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ generally set out which parent a child lives with and when they have contact with their other parent.

Our previous story also revealed how private law children’s orders in 2013/14 cost the public purse £11.7million – in comparison Family Mediation NI received just over £200,000 in government funding that same year for pre-court mediation. Justice Gillen said the key to a successful family justice system was public confidence. “The only way you can do that is opening up the courts to the media so the public can find out what is going on – so long as you have appropriate protections for children within that system. There is a tension on the one hand between the right of the child to have privacy, to have protection from the public knowing all about their little lives and anonymity is important. On the other hand there is a need for the public to know what is happening in the courts. Courts must be transparent. Courts must be accountable.”

There are 168 recommendations in the draft report, which can be viewed here. The public consultation process closes on October 28 and responses can be emailed to [email protected].

Other key recommendations include having ‘problem solving courts’, a new family court structure, fast-tracking of cases and greater use of technology which would enable police officers and social workers to give court updates via the internet. Also problem solving courts – with the assistance of specialised support services including anger management, drug and alcohol addiction – will aim to help parents. New sanctions are also being proposed for parents who fail to adhere to a court order including community service and mandatory parenting classes similar to those for people caught speeding. 

Justice Gillen has said the community and voluntary sector has already played and will continue to play a key role in the reforms. Many groups including Family Mediation NI and the NSPCC formed a reference group advising Justice Gillen. 

Detail Data’s previous research prompted calls for a greater focus on mediation and lead to the formation of a Family Courts coalition. Facilitated by NICVA, the coalition brings together voluntary and community groups which are working in the family court arena. Through the coalition the groups are lobbying for reform of the system, more funding and greater support for mediation in an effort to divert more families away from the justice system. Several issues highlighted in Detail Data’s story in April have been cited in the review group’s recommendations including replacing the “outdated” Children’s Order Advisory Committee (COAC) with a new Family Justice Board, giving greater emphasis to the voice of the child and opening the family courts up to the media.

The review and reform of Northern Ireland’s family justice system has been welcomed by groups working in the voluntary and community sector. Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: “The Court Service is facing a range of new challenges and emerging issues. Court facilities need modernisation so they can benefit from digital technology and communications. We also face more complex public and private law cases in a time when there is less funding. NSPCC Northern Ireland is particularly supportive of the recommendations on new ways to provide mediation for family cases. We also welcome the possibility of a pilot project using our Young Witness Service, which helps children and young through all aspects of the court process. This will involve public and private law cases involving children and young people, enabling them in those cases to give evidence directly to the court.”

Joan Davis, director of Family Mediation NI said: “Justice Gillen’s far reaching review has concluded that the Separated Parents Information Programme in New Zealand may influence the development of a similar approach in Northern Ireland. We are encouraged by this vision that acknowledges family breakdown as not a legal battle but a societal issue that requires urgent intervention to reduce the negative impact on children. We have been waiting for some years for mediation to be funded and supported as in Britain and the Republic and believe that Justice Gillen’s vision will begin the process of departments working together to develop mediation services to reduce the numbers of parents entering the adversarial legal system to decide on contact and residency. Supporting the empowerment of parents to be the decision makers around the future of their own children achieves the best long term outcomes.”

After the final report is handed to the Lord Chief Justice this autumn it will be up to the government to implement the recommendations.

Justice Gillen stated: “If these reforms are carried through and if we have a court system which is swifter, more efficient, a one-stop shop, problem solving - you will find that the savings are enormous in terms of children being kept out of the criminal justice system. If you invest to save, the medium and long term savings will be enormous but in the initial stages there has to be some investment by government.”

To view the full story and  interview with Justice Gillen click here

 

 

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£500,000 fund for Northern Ireland's historic buildings

This week’s announcement that the Department for Communities has launched a £500,000 Historic Environment Fund that will help restore listed buildings is certainly welcome.

Experts however have been keen to point out that it falls well short of what is really needed to protect and enhance our limited stock of built heritage.

When Detail Data carried out its ‘Building on the Past’ research late last year, contributors were keen to stress that built heritage was not just about Lords and Ladies living in big houses – it was about much more.

Somewhere to work, to socialise, to worship, to go on holiday, to shop and also to live.

The project showed how our built heritage includes virtually every type of building imaginable. It also provides a very valuable sense of place to locals and visitors alike.

Despite this, government funding for restoration projects had been slashed from £4.4m a year to zero.

The project struck a nerve with many, not just enthusiasts of history and architecture, but local communities hopeful that their village eyesore could be returned to its former glory.

The project also received considerable attention from the political classes – who discussed the matter in the Assembly chamber, the Environment Committee and also through dozens of written questions to the then Minister for Environment.

The media also played a positive role; with newspaper, magazine, radio and television coverage putting the Department under further scrutiny.

In March 2016 a public consultation was launched in relation to the establishment of a new fund.

Given the ongoing financial pressures at Stormont, it was always unlikely that the previous level of funding would be reinstated. As such, this week’s announcement is being viewed as something to build upon rather than the end of the debate.

This is because, with 8,500 listed buildings – 500 of which are deemed to be ‘at-risk’ – demand for financial support is likely to far outstrip supply.

To read the Detail Data story on the announcement of the funding package click here. http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/500-000-fund-for-northern-ireland-s-historic-buildings

And our original story is available here http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/building-on-the-past-is-government-doing-enough-to-protect-valuable-historic-sites

The data behind the Building on the Past data story can be viewed here

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NICVA’s State of the Sector examines the Income and Expenditure of the VCSE sector

NICVA’s latest State of the Sector research sheds light on funding to the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland through grants, contracts and public donations.

Estimating the economic size of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector is a complicated task which is determined by the availability and accessibility of data. A wide range of data sources was used in this resource include the 2015 State of the Sector survey, Government Funders Database, Freedom of Information requests and from funders directly. 

This research estimates that the sector received £587,673,569 from central and local government, non-departmental public bodies, grant making trusts, Europe, Big Lottery and public donations. Nearly half of the funding came from non-departmental public bodies (48.7%). Direct central government funding is also substantial with 25.5% of funding coming from this source. What is clear is that the funding awarded by councils to the sector has dropped dramatically. In 2007-2008 the councils awarded £9,638,975 compared to £5,622,960 in 2013-2014.

Funding Source 

 2013-2014 Funding (£ million) 

     %    
Non-departmental public bodies     286,459,533   48.7
Central Government                                     150,054,757   25.5
Grant Making Trusts     60,080,639   10.2
General public     52,789,608   9.0
Lottery     21,940,250   3.7
Europe     10,725,822   1.8
Local Government     5,622,960              1.0
Total     587,673,569   100

 

Analysis of organisation accounts suggests that the total expenditure of the sector in 2013-2014 was 93% of its income. If we equate that percentage to total funding, the total expenditure would be in the region of £548 million. This has decreased slightly from 97% in the 2012 State of the Sector Report.

 
 

Trends in how the sector expends it resources have changed relatively little with 86.8% of expenditure spent on charitable activities. Organisations also spend a large amount of resources on generating funds with nearly 10% expending their income to diversity their source of income.

On 28th September NICVA’s Research Team will be presenting findings from State of the Sector at a research launch event. Paul Givan MLA, Minister for the Department for Communities, will be commenting on the research and will be outlining his priorities for the voluntary, community and social enterprise Sector at the event. You can register to attend here

Click here to view the full State of the Sector resource http://www.nicva.org/stateofthesector/

To view the open data behind State of the Sector visit  NICVA's Open Data Portal- http://data.nicva.org/group/nicva

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Suicide deaths in Northern Ireland highest on record

THREE hundred and eighteen suicides were registered in Northern Ireland during 2015 – the highest annual death toll since records began in 1970.

Despite over £7m being spent annually on suicide prevention, the equivalent of six people each week took their own lives here last year. This was a 19% increase on the suicides recorded in 2014.

Detail Data is reporting on the latest suicide figures almost 10 years after Northern Ireland’s Protect Life suicide prevention strategy and action plan was launched in October 2006 in response to the increasing rate of suicide. Over £50million has been allocated to suicide prevention since the strategy started.

Of the suicide deaths registered in 2015, 77% (245) were male. One hundred and thirty-two were aged between 15 and 34-years-old and five people were 75 or older. Ninety-three people who took their own lives lived in the Belfast Health Trust area - this is 30% of the 2015 total.

Using historic data held by the NISRA we have been able to calculate that a total of 7,697 suicides were registered in Northern Ireland from the beginning of 1970 to the end of 2015. Of these deaths, 5,666 were males. In response to the figures, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said the suicide rate was “unacceptably high in the north" and that reducing the rate continues to be a priority for her department. “High levels of deprivation, the legacy of conflict and high levels of mental ill-health create a very challenging set of circumstances for many people in the north of Ireland,” she said.

THE FIGURES

Today’s report is based on the suicide statistics from the Registrar General’s four quarterly reports for 2015. Suicide deaths can take time to be fully investigated and there is often a period of time between when the suicide occurs and when it is registered. For example, of the 268 suicides registered in 2014, 133 actually occurred in 2014, 123 took place in 2013 and 12 in 2012 or earlier.

The 2008/11 Programme for Government (PfG) set the target of an average annual suicide death rate of 10.7 per 100,000 of population over the three year period 2010 to 2012. This target was not achieved.

The word ‘suicide’ does not appear in either the 2011/15 PfG or the draft 2016/21 PfG. The Health Minister said it is expected that the suicide rate will be one of the indicators used to monitor the implementation of the PfG.  Click here to read the Minister's full response to our questions.

HOPE AND RECOVERY IN BELFAST

High numbers of suicide deaths have devastated families across Belfast, particularly in the north of the city.

The Belfast Forum for Suicide Prevention is made up of more than 30  voluntary and community groups who are working together to combine their expertise, experience and resources to reduce suicides. Forum members Irene Sherry, Stephen Barr, Caroline King, Clare Flynn and Jo Murphy spoke to Detail Data. 

To access the full story and the contributions made by the voluntary and community organisations involved in the story click here.

• To access the suicide data in full, click here.

HELPLINE DETAILS

- Lifeline is the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair. It can be contacted confidentially on 0808 808 8000.

- The Samaritans can be contacted by telephone on 116 123 or [email protected] 

- Suicide Down to Zero can be contacted on [email protected] 

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Shortfalls revealed in disability provision at venues across Northern Ireland

Major shortfalls have been identified in disability access at many of Northern Ireland’s most popular visitor, tourist, cultural and sporting attractions – potentially affecting the lives of over 300,000 people and their families.

The findings by Detail Data are published today as the charity Disability Action also raises concerns about Stormont’s Disability Strategy which promised to raise awareness and improve opportunities and services for disabled people by addressing the inequalities and tackling the barriers they face in their daily lives.

Detail Data surveyed venues across Northern Ireland on provision for people with mobility, hearing and vision issues. This included staff training, information provision and seating availability.

In total 40 venues responded to the survey request, with venues in each of the 11 council areas contributing.

The key findings from our survey include:

  • One quarter of venues said that all levels, floors and areas were not accessible to wheelchair users without assistance.
  • Nearly half of the venues (17) said front facing staff had not received disability training in the last three years as recommended by Disability Action.
  • Half of the 40 venues said printed material was not available in larger format, while 27 said printed material was not available in Braille. A number said such material was available on request.
  • Although 39 of the venues have disabled toilet facilities, just six have a Changing Places bathroom which has extra features, like a changing bench and hoist, and more space to meet the needs of disabled people.
  • A total of 29 venues said front facing staff had no training in British or Irish sign language.
  • 12 venues do not have an audio loop system for hearing aid users whilst half have audio-visual or captioning services.

The 2011 census found that 207,173 people in Northern Ireland have problems with mobility or dexterity; 93,091 have deafness or partial hearing loss and 30,862 have blindness or partial sight loss.

Karen Hall, Disability Action’s Assistant Director with responsibility for policy and external relations, said the lack of clarity relating to the progress of the existing and future strategy is disappointing.

“What we want is real tangible actions to be taken, and resourced” 

"We welcome that the draft Programme for Government has included a specific indicator on disability and we hope that this will mean tangible actions going forward."

Detail Data asked Tourism NI for details of how it promotes and encourages disabled facilities at tourist/visitor attractions.

In response a Tourism NI (TNI) spokesperson said:

“Tourism NI does not endorse a specific accessibility designation scheme or provider, however we encourage tourist accommodation providers and visitor attractions to produce self-completed Access Statements in line with best-practice guidelines of the Equality Commission NI.

“We encourage accommodation providers to provide any additional accessibility information or accessibility designations within their own marketing materials.

“TNI encourages individuals and organisations working in the tourism industry to undertake training through the World Host Customer Service Programme to raise awareness of customers with disabilities.

“All Tourism NI funded projects and events have conditions written into all letters of offer to ensure that project promoters meet all statutory obligations, including for example Section 75 obligations.”

Orla McCann of Disability Action believes that a more proactive approach should be taken in relation to disability friendly tourism development.

“We believe that TNI could be doing more to ensure that industry providers address the access needs of people with disabilities”

Dermot Devlin is a wheelchair user who runs My Way Access, a directory style website that contains details of attractions and how suitable they are for disabled visitors.

He said the findings of the Detail Data survey reinforce his experiences at many venues, with staff training and information issues prevalent.

“In a lot of venues the staff aren’t trained, at a very basic level, in how to react to people with disabilities. People can be patronising”

“I’m 36, but I’ve been in places where people talk down to me. There are people with disabilities; in a wheelchair or with a hearing problem or with eyesight problems and they are still getting this sort of stuff.

“At the moment, information on websites is terrible. The majority of sites have one or two lines saying they are accessible. Not who they are accessible to.”

To find out how web technology is improving information on accessibility, read our feature on the Detail Data Portal.

According to Kevin O’Neill of Disability Sport NI, there are also good examples of building improvements.

“The Inclusive Stadia Advisory Group developed a set of technical guidelines for the three refurbished stadia. So there was a really good set of technical guidance and that informed improvements at the Kingspan Stadium (Ravenhill) in Belfast where provision has improved dramatically.

“The national football stadium (Windsor Park) has incorporated a lot of changes and is planning to do more and the GAA and Casement Park shouldn’t be too far behind.

“There is now the sub regional soccer stadium programme. We are obviously campaigning that the guidelines are implemented there and that the three big sports actually have a disability action plan to improve spectating at the various grounds.”

In 2014, the Department of Work and Pensions published research which highlighted that UK households with a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion after housing costs. The research also showed that disabled people find shopping the most difficult experience for accessibility, followed by going to the cinema, theatre and concerts.

Disability Action’s Orla McCann said similar research is required specifically for Northern Ireland to evaluate the potential spending power of disabled people – something that is known as the Purple Pound.

“I believe a piece of work needs to be done to identify the value of the purple pound when you take into account family and friends who will avoid a venue because their family member/friend cannot join them”

To read the full story by Detail Data's Cormac Campbell, which includes an interactive map of the venues surveyed, click here.

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Support for NICVA members applying for Road Safety Grants

Interested in applying to the grants scheme for community led road safety initiatives launched? Detail Data can provide NICVA members with information that could support their application. 

Earlier this month Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard launched the 2016-17 Road Safety Grant Scheme. The scheme offers individuals and community groups an opportunity to apply for funding of up to £10,000 to develop and deliver local road safety initiatives. It is aimed at helping engage and empower individuals, communities and organisations to promote and practise good road safety behaviours to reduce the number of people who are killed or injured on our roads. Grants must be used on locally focused road safety education and awareness projects to help the Department achieve outcomes identified within its Road Safety Strategy to 2020.

So how can Detail Data help?

In the past 10 months Detail Data has gathered a range of data which would be relevant to organisation interested in applying for this funding. This data has been used in several high impact stories. The first story, launched in August 2015, is Two years of death and serious injury on Northern Ireland’s roads which maps collisions and examines road infrastructure.

Another relevant story published earlier this month is ‘Over 2,000 road crashes outside schools spark calls for 20mph speed limit', which examines the number of people injured as a result of road traffic collisions close to schools in Northern Ireland over the last decade. Detail Data has also focused specifically on cycling collisions and published an article in September 2015 which mapped Northern Ireland cycling collisions.  

The data behind the road death and serious injuries and the cycling collision stories are available on the Detail Data Portal and the team are happy to assist organisations in accessing the data relevant to their application.

For more information and a funding application pack visit NI Direct.

To access data support contact [email protected] or [email protected].

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Over 2,000 road crashes outside schools spark calls for 20mph speed limit

ELEVEN people - including one child - have been killed and over 2,600 people have been injured as a result of road traffic collisions close to schools in Northern Ireland over the last decade.

Our findings have led to calls for part-time 20mph speed limits outside schools across Northern Ireland, similar to those in operation across Scotland where they have been installed at almost all schools. 

Using PSNI statistics, Detail Data has mapped every road traffic collision (RTC) resulting in an injury close to a school over ten years.  We examined only those collisions which occurred on weekdays within one hundred metres of a school, between 2005 and 2014.

This Detail Data map contains details on the number of road traffic collisions leading to injuries that occurred within a 100m area around each school in Northern Ireland, occurring on weekdays 2005-2014. Zoom in on the map to view individual school sites. The crash data was obtained from the PSNI and the geographic data was obtained from the Department of Education. Where a collision occurred within 100m of more than one school they are mapped to each but are only counted once in the overall figures. The circles represent the 100m radius surrounding each school in Northern Ireland. The colour of the circles relates to the number of road traffic collisions that occurred close to each school. Click on the ‘show collisions on map’ link at each school to see exactly where each collision took place. 

Analysis of the PSNI road traffic collision statistics found

  • 1,766 collisions within 100m of schools on weekdays, 2005-2014
  • 2,660 people injured in collisions near to schools, almost one-fifth were aged 16 and under (479 children)
  • 11 people were killed and 203 seriously injured
  • 18% of those injured were aged 16 or under, a higher rate for this age group than for all weekday collisions regardless of location over the same time period (11.9%).
  • 78 schools where collisions had occurred nearby had speed limits of 60mph
  • The most common time for RTCs near schools was between 3pm-4pm (10% of average daily collisions) followed by 8am-9am (8.9%)
  • For an interactive calendar of when these collisions near to schools took place during the year, click here.

20’s Plenty

A Stormont study from 2014 found that while there were a number of engineering measures which could be introduced to create safer roads around schools, part-time 20mph speed limits were the most effective system.

There are over 1,500 schools in Northern Ireland but only three schools currently have part-time temporary 20mph speed limits and a further three schools are earmarked to have these measures put in place.

The Department of Infrastructure said while it prioritised sites most in need by looking at traffic volume and vehicle speeds, it estimated that the cost of implementing these measures ranged from £40,000 to £50,000 per site. This includes the power supply connection and cost of engineering works.

However Rod King from the UK-wide campaign group 20’s Plenty believes temporary speed limits outside schools only partially address the issue of speeding on roads. He said:

“Whilst there may be a case for making some 20mph limits temporary outside schools which are on main roads, this does not solve the problem of vehicle speeds being too high across the community.

“We need to change the whole mentality from driving at 30mph and just slowing down in a few places to one where we accept that 20 is plenty where people live, work, play and learn and only go faster where safe and appropriate facilities exist for vulnerable road users wishing to walk and cycle."

Sandra Leo is from the Risk Awareness and Danger Avoidance Responsibility Centre (RADAR). She believes that vehicle speeds remain too high outside schools in Northern Ireland.

RADAR has a state of the art educational facility in Belfast's harbour estate that includes a life-size model village. Its aim is to teach children and young people about road and transport safety as well as criminal justice.

Ms Leo believes more schools in Northern Ireland should have part-time 20mph speed limits. She said:

When you consider that we have more than a thousand schools across Northern Ireland and only a small number currently have those protections it is surprising.

“Especially when you consider that many of our schools are beside main roads, with some at 60mph. We know the outcome can be much different depending on the speed of a car when a collision occurs.”

A spokesperson for sustainable transport charity Sustrans said:

"Detail Data has produced a really useful map showing collisions around schools and we are very supportive of 20mph but not just at school gates. We want safer journeys to schools for all children and therefore want a default 20mph in residential areas.”

"Government also needs to look at safer infrastructure to encourage more active travel i.e. children to walk and cycle to school. What we have at the moment is a vicious circle of parents afraid to let their children get to school on their own steam and as a result massive congestion around the school gates. We deliver the Active School Travel programme on behalf of the Dept for Infrastructure and Public Health Agency which reaches 200 schools. We have just been funded to continue delivering this programme for 5 more years and hope to expand its remit."

In a statement to Detail Data the Department of Infrastructure said the safety of children on their journey to and from school is of the highest priority to its Minister Chris Hazzard.

A spokeswoman said that a number of other measures could be put in place to make roads outside schools safer such as enhanced road markings and lay-bys.

Responding to Detail Data’s findings, PSNI Road Policing Inspector Rosemary Leech said:

“We are happy to participate in the process that attempts to prioritise applications and sites that have been identified as being suitable for such a scheme. The widespread roll-out of such schemes places a significant enforcement burden upon police.

“If this were to happen, each site would either need to be prioritised for police enforcement or designed to have a remote camera detection capability. The necessity for a 20mph speed limit at any given location needs to be obvious to the motorist, with the result that drivers will generally respond in a positive manner.”

The Data

Our interactive map was created using PSNI road traffic collision statistics collected between 2005-2014 and Department of Education co-ordinates for every school in Northern Ireland, from pre-school through to post-primary.

Detail Data created a catchment area on the map for each school to capture and analyse road traffic collisions that occurred within a 100m radius of each school site.

The data relates specifically to collisions that occurred Monday to Friday at any time of the day. This will include incidents outside of normal school hours as well as during holiday time, but excludes those that occurred on Saturday and Sunday.

The police data does not cover collisions which resulted in no injury. It is not possible to tell whether or not those injured in a collision have any connection to the nearby school.

We analysed 1,580 schools across Northern Ireland. 596 had at least one RTC which caused an injury within 100m of the school site during a weekday in the ten year period

The number of RTCs may be higher for some schools located close to major junctions or main thoroughfares. 

To read the full Detail Data article, click here.

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Viewfinder 19 - Increased awareness of open data in the voluntary and community sector

Thanks to all of our members who completed the Viewfinder 19 survey. We are delighted to have such a good response rate of 17.7%.

Viewfinder is a NICVA survey which focuses on issues affecting the voluntary and community sector. The survey is distributed to NICVA members four times a year. The second Viewfinder of 2016 focused on the awareness and use of open data in the voluntary and community sector. The survey was circulated to NICVA members from the 19th April to 6th May 2016. 

Key Findings

Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone (subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike). It is a way of providing access to information in a format that is useful for researchers, journalists developers and voluntary and community organisaitons, as well as any other members of the public who would like to analyse the contents of the information themselves. By providing data in this format organisations are enabling people to analyse information more thoroughly and creating more informed decision making.

There has been an open data movement in Northern Ireland over the past 18 months. With the launch of Detail Data, ODI Belfast, the Open Data Strategy and OpenDataNI, an increasing number of organisations in the voluntary and community sector have become aware of open data. This viewfinder supports this view reporting that the number of NICVA members aware of open data has increased, rising from 40% in 2015 to 47.3% in 2016, of which over a quarter (27.9%) feel that they are sufficiently informed about how open data can by used by the sector and 24.4% by their organisation.

Just over one-third of organisations reported that they use open data of which the most common sources were the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) (69%), Office of National Statistics (ONS) (51.7%) and Detail Data Portal (34.5%).

Organisations were asked to what extent they believe open data will influence the way that voluntary and community organisations undertake some of their functions. Figure 1 below illustrates the responses

 

Base: 182 (multiple choice)

Over two-thirds of respondents believe that open data will affect five of the above key areas by at least some extent. This includes campaigning (73%), lobbying (72%), evaluating need (70.3%) making data driven decisions (67%) and in the development and/or amendment of services. 

Open data is often seen as the main answer to political and government transparency. Many government departments and local councils/authorities across the UK and Ireland have made open data a key priority to drive transparency, accountability and improvements in public services. This survey asked participants if they feel that open data will make the Northern Ireland government more accountable and the results are displayed in the Figure 2.

 

Base: 182

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63.2%) believe that open data will to at least some extent make government more accountable. The Northern Ireland Open Data Strategy is just over one year old, and some departments and councils in Northern Ireland have yet to start releasing data by default. Only 3.3% believe that open data will have no impact whatsoever on government accountability while 17.6% are unsure what impact open data will have.

 

 

Organisations were asked if they have ever made a request for public sector data. Only 6.6% of respondents stated that they had.

Table 1: Has your organisation made a request for data to be made available

 Count%
Yes126.6
No14881.3
Not sure2212.1

Base: 182

Viewfinder 19 sought to examine what sources organisations are requesting data from. It is clear that organisations go directly to government departments and local councils. This is unsurprising as the OpenDataNI portal was launched as recently as December 2015 and the open data team at the Department of Finance is currently in the process of publicising and promoting awareness of the portal. 

Table 2: If yes, who did you make the requests through?

 

Count

%

Directly to government departments

9

75.0

Directly to councils

7

58.3

NISRA

2

16.7

Open Data NI

1

8.3

Open Government Network 

1

8.3

Pre-election Zero Suicide Campaign with all Assembly Parties 

1

8.3

Base: 12 (multiple responses)

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Who cares for our carers?

MORE than 15,000 Northern Ireland pensioners aged 70 and over are providing a minimum of 35 hours unpaid care every week, the equivalent of a full-time job. And over 400 of them are 90 years or older, an investigation by Detail Data has revealed.

As Carer’s Week begins today Carers NI has warned the figures – calculated through an analysis of Carer’s Allowance claimants are just the tip of the iceberg. Research for Carers UK estimates there are now more than 220,000 carers in Northern Ireland – a 20% increase since 2001. The charity places their annual economic contribution at £4.6billion – similar to the entire 2016/17 Stormont health budget. Yet Department for Social Development (DSD) figures show Carer’s Allowance is paid out to only around 42,000 people.

According to Carers NI there are thousands of people suffering financial hardship, isolation and ill health as the numbers caring for family and friends continue to rise with an ageing population and pressure on health and social care budgets. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) projects the aged 65 and over population will increase by 25.8% between 2014 and 2024. Evelyn Hoy, chief executive of the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, said: “Government and society is dependent on older carers - they save the health service millions of pounds every year by providing care and support to older relatives and friends. They play a vital role providing regular and substantial care, supporting loved ones to live dignified lives whilst remaining at home. Yet many carers go without much needed support and respite which could help them in their caring role.Older carers must not be taken for granted.”

Detail Data scrutinised May 2015 benefit claims from 68,800 Carer’s Allowance claimants including information on their postcode area, age, gender and the amount they receive per week. This revealed:

  • Carers (aged over 16) are providing at least 2.4million hours of unpaid care every week – if that care was provided by a home help on the minimum wage that could cost the government more than £16million a week in wages alone.
  • 64% of carers are female with one in five of all carers aged in their 50s.
  • On average carers receive £38.50 Carer’s Allowance per week – that equates to £1.10 an hour compared to a minimum wage of £6.70 or £7.20 for the living wage.
  • Almost half of carers have been caring for 35 hours or more a week for longer than five years.
  • Of the 68,800 Carer’s Allowance claimants almost 25,000 of them are entitled to Carer’s Allowance but don’t receive a payment. This is because they receive another benefit which equals or exceeds their weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance. For example, 89% of them are receiving a state pension.

The statistics don’t include young carers under the age of 16, anyone caring less than 35 hours a week, anyone earning more than £110 a week after deductions, anyone in full-time education and hidden carers. Our interactive map, which can be accessed here, shows the highest numbers of Carer’s Allowance claimants live in the postcode districts BT48 (3,320), BT34 (2,490), BT47 (2,470) and BT35 (2,300) which covers areas in L/Derry and Newry.

THE NEED FOR MORE SUPPORT

Carers NI has warned government is not doing enough to support unpaid carers whose dedication allows thousands of seriously ill people to retain their independence and continue to live in their local community. There is no reference to carers in the draft Programme for Government 2016-2021.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The new minister is very aware of the commitment and dedication demonstrated by carers in our community and fully supports the vision that carers must be recognised as equal partners in care. The minister is committed to improving support for carers, and ensuring that they have access to the right information, advice and support at the right time to enable them to continue to perform their valuable caring role, if this is what they wish to do, without negatively impacting on their own health, wellbeing and life choices.”

Detail Data has joined forces with Carers NI who will today launch a new report at Stormont as well as our findings. MLAs will be asked to pledge their support to unpaid carers. Carers NI general manager Clare-Anne Magee is urging government to work with voluntary and community organisations and local carer support groups to “make a difference to carers living in Northern Ireland”.

The charity’s damning report shows that many carers are struggling to make ends meet.

  •      28% of carers are in debt as a result of caring.
  •      51% had no one in the household in paid work.
  •      68% are caring for more than 50 hours a week.
  •      Almost a third had a disability themselves.

Of almost 200 people surveyed many spoke of suffering anxiety and stress.

Carer’s NI monitored calls to its advice line for Detail Data. Click here to read some of those case studies. Lesley Johnston, Carers NI advice and information officer, explained: “Unfortunately a lot of the people that we get coming to the advice line come to us at crisis point. Very often people are getting into debt before they even contact us.”

More than 1,500 carers contact Carers NI’s advice line every year but that vital service as well as the support services and carers’ support groups they facilitate could be under threat because of government cuts. Mrs Magee said: “The main issue in relation to funding is that our core grant from the Department of Health is being reduced by 25% this year and 25% next year and this is going to have a major impact on us as well as other organisations in the sector.”

The Department confirmed core grant funding is being withdrawn over a three year period “with the existing core grant scheme coming to an end in March 2018”.

CARER’S ALLOWANCE

The number of Carer’s Allowance claimants has increased almost ten-fold in the last 10 years.

 

May 2005

May 2005

May 2010

May 2010

May 2015

May 2015

 

65+

all ages

65+

all ages

65+

all ages

Claimants

7,840

44,970

15,970

54,700

21,720

68,800

Recipients

770

31,770

850

33,290

710

42,480

Carer’s Allowance claimants (number of people on the administrative system) and recipients (those who actually receive the benefit) by age group, May 2005 - May 2015. Some figures have been rounded by the department. Source: Department for Communities

There has been a 177% increase in the number of over 65 year olds claiming for providing care but a drop in those actually receiving Carer’s Allowance over the decade. The percentage of claimants of all ages in receipt of Carer’s Allowance has also fallen from 71% in May 2005 to 61% in May 2015.

A response from the Department for Communities stated: “The proactive targeting of carers with potential entitlement to Carer’s Allowance is a key priority for DfC. A multi strand approach has been adopted to help achieve this goal which includes indirect targeting, such as the Make the Call advertising campaign; direct targeting, where customers are pre-selected for a benefit entitlement check; and partnership working with groups, organisations , and statutory bodies who work with carers. This approach has resulted in 8,968 people receiving an extra £30.1million in unclaimed benefits since the programme began in 2013. From this total figure, £785,211 was paid out as Carer’s Allowance in 2013/14 and in 2014/15 this figure rose to £1,231,709.”

From autumn 2016 a new three-year Department for Communities campaign (Supporting People – Maximising Income through the Uptake of Benefits) will include a focus on carers. The Department added that there are no plans to review Carer’s Allowance.

Lesley Johnston from Carers NI said: “Carer’s Allowance is £62.10 a week for the people who can actually claim it. People find that it’s a pittance really. They feel they should be getting something equal to the minimum wage.”

And Clare-Anne Magee, also from Carers NI, added: “The difficulty with Carer’s Allowance is the strict eligibility criteria, some people are caring 24/7 and still only get £62.10 per week.”

The new Department for Communities – which has taken over DSD’s functions - will apply already agreed changes to the welfare system which could also impact on the benefits carers receive. A person will no longer be entitled to Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Premium if the person they care for doesn’t qualify for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

CARING FOR CARERS

Carer’s NI also believes an urgent review of the 10-year-old government strategy Caring for Carers is needed. The Department of Health policy acknowledges that “carers reduce the amount of input that health and social services and other agencies need to make”. A spokesman for the department said: “A number of priority areas have been identified already and these include how best we recognise the contribution of carers and support them in their caring role. It is anticipated that proposals for change will be issued for consultation in 2017 with policy change to follow.”

Almost half of carers surveyed by Carers NI said they have received little or no helpful information from government about where to go for support. Many cited problems with Carers’ Assessments which provide an opportunity for carers to discuss with their local social care trust what support they need. Carers NI’s Clare-Anne Magee explained: “Carers’ Assessments need to be more than a tick box exercise. They are something that should be offered to all carers under the Caring for Carers strategy. We have heard from carers that they think it’s very formal, they don’t like the term assessment and don’t necessarily think they require an ‘assessment’.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The regional Carers’ Assessment tool has very recently undergone a review, with important changes being made; the new electronic version will be introduced at the end of the summer. The Carers’ Assessment tool has been renamed as the Carer Support tool which better represents its purpose.”

Latest figures show just 40% of Carers’ Assessments were accepted/completed in December 2015 and 60% were declined by carers – an ongoing trend since June 2011.

 Of those declining:

  • 19% felt the time/place/environment offered was unsuitable
  • 17% did not see themselves as carers
  • 17% wouldn’t give a reason
  • 6% didn’t want to discuss their caring duties

Although the Caring for Carers strategy dedicates a section to young carers and highlights the importance of providing support for them, neither the Departments of Education nor Health hold figures on the number of young carers aged under 16. However, a Department of Health spokeswoman said the “numbers of young carers up to the age of 18 availing of services by trusts” was 547 as of March 31, 2015 adding “these numbers do not include all young carers only those availing of services”. In comparison Crossroads Young Carers estimates there are more than 8,000 young carers in Northern Ireland with the youngest aged just five.

To access the data click here http://data.nicva.org/dataset/carers-allowance 

Where to get advice: www.carersuk.org/northernireland or phone 028 9043 9843 or 0808 808 7777 (advice line) or email [email protected].  

For an online benefit check go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/benefits-adviser

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Government challenged to take action over scale of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland

PARAMILITARY groups continue to have thousands of members, with organisations involved in hundreds of acts of violence and intimidation each year in Northern Ireland, according to new figures compiled by Detail Data.

From 2006-15 paramilitaries were responsible for 22 killings, more than 1,000 shootings and bombings, 787 punishment attacks, there were nearly 4,000 reports of people forced from their homes by paramilitaries, while security alerts halted more than 4,000 train services.

Police believe there are currently 33 organised crime gangs directly linked to paramilitary groups, amassing tens of millions of pounds each year. But despite the scale of activity, the Northern Ireland Courts Service confirmed that from 2007-15 there were just over 80 convictions secured under terrorism legislation, leading to 48 prison terms. Security services have said convictions are also secured under non-terrorism legislation, while they also regularly disrupt planned attacks. But today’s report includes criticism of government failure to tackle the scale of violence 20 years into the peace process, with evidence that groups retain huge numbers of members, with large amounts of weaponry still in circulation. Within weeks of the May 5 Assembly elections a government-appointed panel is scheduled to present recommendations on disbanding paramilitary groups. This comes as there is also a focus on the failure to provide policies to re-integrate the estimated 30-40,000 former paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Alan McBride of Belfast’s Wave Trauma Centre said he sees the impact of ongoing activity every day. “At least 50% of our referrals today are in relation to ongoing intimidation. “It is stuff that happened last week or the week before. In terms of this centre we would have on average 30-35 new referrals a month.”

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said the full picture is obscured by the way data is recorded. “That is very much down to government recording methodology which states that a terrorist attack is one that is against a national security target. Our issue is that it doesn’t actually give you a true picture of where we are. I’m sure it would be captured somewhere but we are missing all the paramilitary attacks, all the incidents of terrorism that aren’t necessarily directed against police or military.”

But government and its agencies are reluctant to reveal data that allows full scrutiny of its performance in tackling paramilitaries.

AUTHORITIES RELUCTANT TO QUANTIFY PARAMILITARY MEMBERSHIP

Among the first barriers to evaluating the scale of the problem is confirming the size of the various illegal groups. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told Detail Data it would not provide estimates. According to Rev Dr Gary Mason of Rethinking Conflict, an organisation that has worked closely with loyalist paramilitaries to deliver peaceful outcomes, loyalist paramilitary groups remain large. “At the heart of loyalist groups there would be a leadership of 30 to 40 people then a membership of several thousand,” he said.

Attendance at paramilitary-linked parades and the funerals of individuals linked to paramilitary groupings can also give an indication of group size and support. However, writer and political activist Eamonn McCann believes that in many ways, groups view support as being more important than numbers. “Like many people I was surprised when the IRSP/INLA managed to assemble 150 people in uniform to march at Peggy O’Hara’s funeral. A lot of them, looking at their girths and whiskers were not young recruits. But anyone who doubts that there is significant support for dissident republicans, particularly among young people, shouldn’t. “As far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, paramilitary organisations are not in a recruitment campaign as at the moment they don’t need an awful lot of numbers.”

In 2005 MI5 took over lead role for national security intelligence work in Northern Ireland, with director general Andrew Parker stating in 2013 that the move had enabled the “vast majority” of dissident republican attacks to be “detected and disrupted”. Despite this, MI5 states that the threat continues to be severe in Northern Ireland and moderate in Britain.

INSIDE PRISONS

Data provided by the Northern Ireland Prison Service shows the number of individuals held in separated wings housing loyalists and republicans between 2009 and 2015 at Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim. Viusalisation of this data can be found here

TRAVEL DISRUPTION

While some communities suffer higher levels of paramilitary activity than others, figures obtained by Detail Data also illustrate the scale of disruption across Northern Ireland. Data secured through Freedom of Information requests made to Translink and PSNI showed how security alerts and paramilitary attacks had forced road closures and stopped rail travel. From 2013-15 there were 193 road closures, while between 2006-15 there were 176 security alerts on rail lines, halting more than 4,000 train services. Click here to view the interactive graphic pictured below, where daily incidents are recorded.

A FRESH START?

Given the scale of the wider paramilitary problem the Fresh Start Agreement, negotiated last year to stabilise the political process in Northern Ireland, appointed a three person panel to advise on the issue. The panel is scheduled to report in May, at a time when some experts in the field are arguing for a version of the United Nations endorsed concept of DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration). This could see existing barriers to employment, travel and insurance removed for many ex-prisoners, allowing them to re-integrate into society.

Government is criticised for failing to introduce a re-integration strategy for former paramilitary prisoners. In addition, the Department of Justice said it had no official figures for the numbers of former paramilitary prisoners. But estimates place the figure for ex-prisoners that were jailed during the Troubles at 30-40,000. The Northern Ireland Office declined to reveal how many of the 464 prisoners released early from jail under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 had since breached the terms of their release.However, the Sentence Review Commission confirmed that since 1998, 21 of the prisoners released early were recalled to prison, while 13 ultimately had their early release licence revoked.

According to Michael Culbert of Coiste na nIarchimí, a group that works with former PIRA prisoners, removing barriers to employment would also eliminate a potential recruitment tool for dissident groups. "A weapon being used against support for the peace process are people, a lot of them former political prisoners, pointing and saying nothing has changed,” he said. “There is a sizeable rump, not very big, but if we are truthful about it, it only takes one finger to pull the trigger.”

Tom Roberts of EPIC, a group working with former prisoners from the loyalist UVF, said a working group from OFMDFM had produced a strategy to reintegrate ex-prisoners. He said the employment guidelines the working group proposed in 2007 (https://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/articles/news-conflict-transformation) failed as a result of political barriers. “If you don’t give people who were involved in the conflict the chance to avail of the services that are available to the general public then it makes it more difficult for these groups to civilianise,” he said. “The ex-prisoners’ working group which has been chaired by the successive heads of the civil service has been in operation since the Good Friday Agreement. And while the civil servants who service that group have been more than helpful in trying to address the issues, without the political will there has really been no movement on those issues.

Detail Data asked Stormont’s Department of Finance and Personnel, which sets civil service recruitment policy, for its current position on the employment of ex-prisoners. However, the department declined the opportunity to respond. For Alan McBride the prospect of ex-paramilitaries having such barriers removed would be difficult for many victims to accept, but could be necessary for wider society. “I know from working at Wave, we have many people here, who have reached that point where they are ready to sit down and meet with people who were involved in atrocities and discuss the future of Northern Ireland. We have others that it would be an anathema to even contemplate sitting down with someone who was involved in terrorism. “I think that we do have to move on. We do have to find a way of dealing with the hurt and all of the trouble that was caused in the past.”

To read more on this story click here

To view the data behind this story click here

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