An online toolkit has been launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The UK data protection regulator says that it’s for public authorities responding to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.
A public authority that can be subject to FoI requests (under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004) can self-assess their performance in responding. It generates a bespoke report which helps to identify areas for improvement and where action needs to be taken.
Deborah Clark, ICO Group Manager Insight and Compliance, said: “Whilst the ICO remains pragmatic in its regulatory approach, we also now expect organisations to start putting clear plans in place to get back on track with their freedom of information work. The FOI toolkit will support public authorities to do just that.”
This first phase of the toolkit covers timeliness, a fundamental requirement of FoI law. Its five modules cover: response rates; handling requests; training and awareness; compliance and assurance and governance structure. Further toolkit developments will see other issues addressed, such as where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit.
The toolkit, which can be completed in stages or in full, works by asking the user to assess performance against a set of criteria. Each module generates a report showing an overall rating in the area, an action plan and helpful web links to relevant guidance.
Ms Clark said: “This toolkit is a practical way for public authorities to assess where they are now and what they can do to improve as they return to greater capacity. We hope it will become a staple part of FOI practitioners’ continual learning and that it will help promote good practice, which will contribute to building trust and confidence with the public.”
Prior to launch, the toolkit was tested with public authorities, the watchdog adds.