The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published a new blog explaining the work being undertaken to help public bodies improve their compliance with freedom of information law and respond to information requests without delay.
The ICO has commissioned external research to understand public authority functions and the areas where they would like more support to deal with freedom of information (FOI) requests. Whilst we wait to hear the outcome of that consultation, the ICO has brought attention to the new and existing tools and resources that are available for free on their website. This includes:
- training videos based on the training modules provided to ICO staff (as part of their internal training) and made available for you to reuse;
- a self-assessment toolkit to evaluate your current FOI performance and provide indicators of where efforts should be focused in order to improve;
- a guide to consulting internally on freedom of information requests;
- analysis of compliance across 200 public authorities, as well as recommendations;
- FOI enforcement notices, information notices and practice recommendations so you can learn from recommendations that have previously been issued.
It is clear that the ICO wants to enhance the experience and outcomes for people making FOI requests and it has seen a sustained increase in the number of cases brought to it. Recognising it has limited resources, the ICO will work collaboratively and cooperatively to maximise its effectiveness, by focussing on how it can best support public authorities to be transparent and accountable about the decisions they make.
We can expect more to come as the upstream regulation team develops new materials in response to the results of its external research. In the meantime, public authorities are encouraged to look at the existing materials available for free, which should help reduce time, costs and frustration (for public authorities and individuals) when dealing with FOI requests.
"Complying with FOI response timescales is a legal requirement, so we have developed a suite of products to help public bodies improve their compliance with freedom of information law and respond to information requests without delay."