Freedom Of Information.  

Saturday, 24 January 2009

This is something that many parents will find helpful. We are so often left in the dark as to why decisions are made about our children, and often find it hard to get our hands on results e.t.c and who is responsible for them.

I have had to go through this process a few times over the years, and I only knew I could because Dave's brother works within the system and opened my eyes to my options.

The information should be more freely available.

So here I am doing my little bit to try and make sure that other families can access the information they need.

I hope someone finds it helpful.

How to make a request

Any person can make a request under the Act - there are no restrictions on your age, nationality, or where you live.
All you have to do is write to (or email) the public authority that you think holds the information you want. You should make sure that you include:
your name
an address where you can be contacted
a description of the information that you want
You don't have to mention the Freedom of Information Act, but there is no reason not to if you want to.
You should try to describe the information you want in as much detail as possible - for example "minutes of the meeting where the decision to do X was made", rather than "everything you have about X". This will help the public authority find the information you need.
Public authorities must comply with your request promptly, and should provide the information to you within 20 working days (around a month). If they need more time, they must write to you and tell you when they will be able to answer your request, and why they need more time.

What you can ask for and who you can ask

The Freedom of Information Act applies to all 'public authorities' - this includes
central and local government
the health service
schools, colleges and universities
the police
lots of other non-departmental public bodies, committees and advisory bodies.
You can ask for any information at all - but some information might be withheld to protect various interests which are allowed for by the Act. If this is case, the public authority must tell you that they have withheld information and why.
If you ask for information about yourself, then your request will be handled under the Data Protection Act instead of the Freedom of Information Act. You have slightly different rights to this information, different fees apply and public authorities have longer to respond to these requests.

What it costs

Most requests are free. You might be asked to pay a small amount for making photocopies or postage.
If the public authority thinks that it will cost them more than £450 (or £600 for a request to central government) to find the information and prepare it for release, then they can turn down your request. They might ask you to narrow down your request by being more specific in the information you're looking for.

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