Freedom of Information Act

If you are new to or outside the public sector, this brief introduction may be helpful.

The Act requires all government departments to be open with information. Scotland has its own Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) which differs from the rest of the UK

This is subject to obvious exemptions such as providing information with national security risks and private information covered by the Data Protection Act (now GDPR). As an example, you can ask you local health authority how many nurses they employ and the total salary budget for your school project or newspaper article. However, if you also asked for each nurse’s name, salary and telephone number, that information would clearly not be provided for privacy reasons.

Managing Information Requests

A request under Freedonm of Information (FOI or FOIR) or an Environmental Information Request (EIR) must be answered in 20 working days. Thus, the IRMS (information request management system – sometimes shortened to “IRM”) must calculate and track deadlines excluding weekends and certain defined public holidays. The law surreounding these differs in each juristdiction – not least because each country will have different bank holidays. So Australia Day and Independence Day are not holidays in the UK. In Scotland, clients of AXLR8 have different days in their bank holiday calendar to England and Wales, for example.

A Subject Access Request (SAR) should be answered with in a calendar month.

Complaints, Reviews and Appeals will have their own deadlines.

More information is available elsewhere in this site and from the links below.

Since the original partnership development the system with West Sussex CC in 2000, the system has been adopted by many public and private sector organisations in different national jurisdictions.   

Download the Freedom of Information Act. There is guidance on the site for the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) which covers all the jurisdictions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For Scotland, you can obtain the act and guidance from the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.