ICO launches online toolkit to assess FoI responses

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched an online toolkit to help public authorities respond to freedom of information requests.

It said the toolkit is designed to help organisations self-assess their performance, generating bespoke reports that help to identify areas for improvement and where action needs to be taken.

The ICO has released a first phase focused on timeliness and split into five modules on response rates, handling requests, training and awareness, compliance and assurance and governance structure.

It said other issues, such as where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit, will be address in future developments.

The toolkit works by asking the user to assess performance against a set of criteria and each module generates a report with an overall rating, action plan and web links for guidance.

It has been tested with input from a number of public authorities.

Back on track

Deborah Clark, ICO group manager insight and compliance, emphasised the role of the toolkit in helping authorities clear backlogs of FoI requests as they recover from the coronavirus crisis.

“Whilst the ICO remains pragmatic in its regulatory approach, we also now expect organisations to get back on track with their freedom of information work,” she said. “The FoI toolkit will support public authorities to do just that.”

She added: “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.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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