The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has established a workplan towards providing support for public authorities in their compliance with the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
It is working on the plan as part of a shift in its efforts towards more support for organisations in meeting their FoI and data protection obligations. This has been reflected in the creation of an upstream regulation team with funding from the Government’s most recent Spending Review.
These include some outputs that have already been achieved, including digitised internal ICO training, blogs to increase engagement with practitioners, the delivery of an FoI self-assessment toolkit, and guidance on how to write a request.
Others are in the pipeline, including a new beginner’s guide to the FoI and a ‘How to’ manual on information access, video training, an FoI e-newsletter, the creation of a practitioner forum and the development of basic templates for initial responses and internal reviews.
There are also possibilities based on funding in the next Spending Review round on the development of an open source database and case management system, and training on analysing and concentrating data.
Results of research
Clark said the plan reflects the findings of newly published research for the ICO on the issues faced by people dealing with FoI requests.
This has led the team to focus on four areas, the first being to work with key organisations on producing and piloting new tools, guidance and training for request handling.
Second is to increase engagement with the FoI community, and third to provide support for people making requests so they are easier for public authorities to handle and more likely to provide the information required.
Fourth is to support compliance with proactive disclosure and build an evidence base of benefits.
Clark commented: “It's vital that we work closely with those we regulate and who have an interest in our work, such as civil society groups, to understand how we can better support public organisations.