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Children and Young Peoples Services

Services for Adults on the Isle of Wight

Frequently Asked Questions – Access to Information


General:

Q: What sort of information is covered by the Freedom of Information Act?

A: The Act covers all recorded information ‘held’ by public authorities. This can include information which is in a published format – such as leaflets or reports; information in standard ‘reporting’ formats - such as minutes of meetings and supporting papers; information included in letters and memoranda; information within contracts and other official documents of a similar type, and information on audio tape and in e-mails.

Q: What about personal information that is about me?

A: You can request personal information in the same way (see below), but it will be dealt with under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), instead of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. These requests are called Subject Access Requests and proof of identity is required together with a fee of £10. The Council has 40 days to comply with requests under the DPA.

Making a request under Freedom of Information:
Q: How do I make a request for information? Is there a form to be completed? Will there be a charge?

A: A request must be received in writing (email or letter) or a form is available on the web-site www.iwight.com/foia. The information will be provided promptly, at least within 20 working days. However, if there is a charge for the information we will notify you at the earliest opportunity – you then have three months to respond with payment before the request becomes void. If we are unable to provide the information, due to an exemption applying, we will notify of the reason behind the decision. Fees and charges are in part dependent on new Regulations which have not yet been published.

Q: What about requests made face to face with staff in contact points? Do these need to be in writing?

A: The Act provides a statutory right for the public to request and receive information. If the request is a standard one, or one with an obvious answer, then the information will be provided as normal. Only if such a ‘face to face’ request looks as though it might be complex is it going to be necessary to write it down and it will then be treated as a request under the legislation.

Q: What if information is provided on the website, but I am unable to access it? Am I able to request a hard copy of the information?

A: Access to the internet is free in public libraries, so theoretically anyone should be able to access the internet by visiting their library. A large proportion of printed material which is in the public domain on the internet is still subject to charges when made available in hard copy. You will be notified as soon as possible if a charge will be required for the information requested.


Exemptions:
Q: Is any information held by the authority going to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act?

A: There are 23 exemptions, not all of them applicable to local authorities. Information is either exempt under an absolute exemption, or a qualified exemption. These include information which is exempt because:
Absolute exemptions:
  • it is reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means even if this involves payment (eg. on web-site);
  • it constitutes court records;
  • it is personal data of which the applicant is the subject;
  • it was provided in confidence;
  • it is information relating to security bodies;
  • its disclosure is prohibited by any enactment, is incompatible with a Community obligation, or would constitute contempt of court.

Qualified exemptions:
  • it is intended for publication at a later date and can reasonably be withheld until publication;
  • it is information of an economic nature whose disclosure might prejudice the financial interests of the administration;
  • it is information which has been used or was obtained to investigate, detect or prevent crime or other areas of law enforcement;
  • it is some form of information held for audit functions;
  • it is personal data concerning a third party;
  • the request is a vexatious or repeated request
  • disclosure would endanger an individual’s physical or mental health or safety;
  • it is subject to legal professional privilege;
  • disclosure would be prejudicial to commercial interests;
  • it is environmental information covered by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
This is not a complete list, but covers those subjects most likely to be within the remit of the local authority.
Information protected by absolute exemptions is not made available to the public, and the authority is not obliged to disclose that such information is held. For qualified exemptions a decision on whether information is exempt will be made following consideration of the ‘public interest test’ (see page 20 of the Access to Information Policy). Unless such confirmation would itself constitute disclosure of exempt information, the authority must confirm or deny if it holds such information.

Appeals:
Q: What if I am unhappy with the information provided?

A: Please write to the Information Management Team at County Hall, High Street, Newport, IW PO30 1UD, or e-mail information@iow.gov.uk, with details of your complaint. We will review the decision made and respond to you within 20 working days.

If, following the internal appeals process, you are still unsatisfied with the response, you may write to the Information Commissioners Office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

It is hoped that the appeals process will alert the Council to any failures to supply information, which can be dealt with by updating the information published through the website.



Page last updated on: 05/12/2006