Freedom of Information Policy | Knowledge Base+

Freedom of Information Policy

1. Context

1.1 The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) gives the public a general right of access to information held by public authorities, subject to certain conditions and exemptions.

1.2 Anyone, anywhere, may request information for any reason. FOIA covers both old and new information, and applies to information recorded in any form or format. FOIA aims to foster a culture of openness across the public sector.

1.3 JISC Collections is committed to compliance with the FOIA. JISC Collections regards the lawful and appropriate management of information as essential to its successful functioning and to maintaining the confidence of stakeholders. JISC Collections fully endorses and adheres to the principle of public access to official information wherever this is possible.

2. Requirements

2.1 The FOIA imposes the following requirements on JISC Collections:

  • To adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme. A Publication Scheme is a commitment to publish an identified range of JISC Collections information proactively into the public domain. This includes information that is readily available on the website.
  • To provide access to JISC Collections information which is not otherwise published on receipt of a written request, stating the name and address of the requestor and describing the information required.
  • To inform the requestor, in writing, whether we hold that information, and if so, to communicate that information to them within 20 working days, subject to any exemptions or fees (or up to 40 working days, if there is a requirement to apply the public interest test).
  • Where information is exempt from disclosure for a statutory reason, to send the requestor a notice which specifies and explains the reason why.
  • If a fee is chargeable, to send the requestor a fees notice, stating the amount required.
  • To provide advice and assistance, as far as is reasonable, to anyone seeking information about JISC Collections.

2.2 JISC Collections will ensure that appropriate systems, procedures and operational guidance are in place to ensure that these requirements are met. Documentation supporting FOIA compliance includes guidance for staff, an online request form, a detailed statement on fees (Appendix 1) and procedures for appealing FOI decisions (Appendix 2).

3. Actions and activities

3.1 To support full compliance with the FOIA JISC Collections will undertake the following actions and activities:

  • Establish records management structures and procedures which meet the requirements of the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Management of Records, made under the FOIA.
  • Deal with all requests for information in accordance with the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Discharge of Public Authorities’ Functions, also made under the FOIA, and relevant guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (the statutory regulator for the FOIA) and the Ministry of Justice.
  • Communicate information to requestors, or otherwise send a refusal notice, within the statutory time limit allowed for responses (20 working days, or 40 working days where it is necessary to consider the public interest test).
  • Apply any relevant exemptions lawfully and appropriately.
  • Charge requestors for information in accordance with our statement of fees, which take proper account of guidance from the Ministry of Justice.
  • Freely provide advice and assistance to requestors as far as is reasonable.

4. Maintenance and reporting

4.1 This Policy is reviewed regularly and not less than every three years.

4.2 The Publication Scheme is reassessed periodically and in line with the requirements of the Information Commissioner’s Office.

4.3 The number of information access requests received by JISC Collections is reported monthly and compliance is monitored.

Central responsibilities

5.1 The CEO of JISC Collections] is responsible for approving this policy.

5.2 The JISC Collections FOI Officer is responsible for oversight and implementation of this policy, and:

  • Maintaining this policy.
  • Maintaining the Publication Scheme.
  • Providing expert guidance on the application of the FOIA.
  • Providing guidance and clearing for information access requests.
  • Providing guidance, support and training.
  • Liaising with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Personal responsibilities

6.1 All JISC Collections staff are informed about the policy for supporting compliance with the FOIA on appointment and at induction. Further training is available to established staff, if required or upon request. Guidance on handling information access requests is readily available on our website.

6.2 All JISC Collections staff must:

  • Ensure that requests for information are handled in accordance with this policy and other internal policies and associated guidance.
  • Pass on information access requests which raise particular concerns to a senior member of JISC Collections and/or the JISC Collections FOI Officer promptly and in accordance with published guidance.
  • Ensure that JISC Collections records and information for which they are responsible are complete and accurate.
  • Provide advice to requestors in accordance with this Policy and associated internal policies and guidance or refer requestors to a senior member of JISC Collections or the FOI Officer.

6.3 Failure to respond appropriately to information access requests may be a breach of internal procedures and the FOI and you have a right to appeal against a refusal to provide information in response to a request, or where you believe that a request has been handled unfairly or incorrectly, in accordance with the Appeals Procedure attached at Appendix 2.

Appendix 1

Information Access - Fees

1. Under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (“the Regulations”), JISC Collections can refuse to deal with a request that would cost more than £450 to process. The calculation of the cost can include:

  • Determining whether the requested information is held.
  • Locating and retrieving the information.
  • Extracting the information.
  • These Regulations also allow JISC Collections to recover some administrative costs incurred in meeting a request which costs less than £450. Enquirers will be notified if a charge is payable to answer their request and in those cases information will only be provided once the fee payment has been received.
  • The terms of the Regulations do not affect JISC Collection's right to charge for publications and for certain information services otherwise offered on a fee-paying basis. These charges are explained in JISC Collections Publication Scheme.
  • When estimating the cost of complying with a written request for information, JISC Collections will take into account the staff time involved, charged at a fixed rate (currently £25 per hour per person) involved in the following activities:
  • Determining whether the information is held.
  • Locating the information, or a document which may contain the information.
  • Retrieving the information, or a document that may contain the information.
  • Extracting information from a document.
  • In general, where the cost of responding to a request in full exceeds the £450 limit, JISC Collections will respond to the enquirer stating that we will not be providing the information requested and explain the reason (i.e. the cost would exceed £450). However, we may offer to proceed with the processing of the request in exchange for payment of the relevant costs in full plus VAT at our sole discretion.
  • The decision on whether to provide a full response in such circumstances will rest with a senior member of JISC Collections, if necessary in conjunction with the FOI Officer. However in the first instance, JISC Collections will discuss with the enquirer whether they would be prepared to modify the request to reduce the associated costs.
  • For requests estimated to cost £450 or less to fulfill, JISC Collections will charge only for disbursements (i.e. postage, photocopying and/or cost to preferred formats) incurred in the course of preparing and sending a response.
  • JISC Collections can charge for disbursements regardless of the £450 limit referred to in paragraphs 2 and 5 and will exercise its discretion in this regard on a case by case basis dependant on whether the administrative costs of levying such charges would outweigh any income generated.
  • VAT will be charged on any appropriate fees connected with an information access request, calculated at the standard rate applicable at the time. Where a book or booklet is provided in response to an information request, the VAT charged on the publication will be zero rated in accordance with the Government's standard VAT policy.
  • In certain circumstances, if JISC Collections receives two or more related requests, the costs of answering them may be added together (or 'aggregated') to determine whether the limit has been exceeded. These circumstances are as follows:
  • The requests must be from the same person or from "different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign”.
  • The requests must relate to the same or similar information.
  • They must have been received by JISC Collections within a period of 60 consecutive working days.
  • Once JISC Collections has calculated any relevant fees which may be payable in connection with an information access request, enquirers will be issued with a letter called a 'fees notice' and will be required to pay the costs specified therein before JISC Collections will respond to the request in full.
  • After a period of three months, any such request for which the fees have not been received will be deemed to have been withdrawn.

Appendix 2

Information Access - Appeals

  • JISC Collections is required to provide a straightforward process for appeals against its decisions on information access requests.
  • This process will:
  • Provide a fair reassessment of the handling of the request and of the decision made;
  • Be conducted by someone senior and impartial;
  • Be capable of reversing the original decision if required
  • Those wishing to appeal have 60 days in which to lodge their appeal. Normally the Information Commissioner (ICO) will not accept an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office until the internal appeals process has been exhausted.
  • In the first instance those wishing to appeal should write to the FOI Officer and explain why they are not happy with JISC Collection’s decision or handling of their request. The FOI Officer will seek to resolve issues raised informally within 20 working days (although more complex appeals, in particular there may be a requirement to reconsider the public interest test) may take up to 60 days.
  • If the enquirer is not satisfied with the outcome of the initial appeal, a further appeal can be made to the CEO of JISC Collections via the FOI Officer.
  • A full written response by or on behalf of the CEO of JISC Collections to the second appeal will be made available to the enquirer within 25 days of receipt of the second appeal. If this is not possible the FOI Officer will provide a realistic date for response.
  • If the CEO of JISC Collections was directly involved in the management or handling of the original information access request, or the initial appeal, another senior member of JISC Collections nominated by the FOI Officer and/or the CEO, will assume responsibility for the consideration of the appeal and issue the final decision on behalf of JISC Collections.

To complain write to:

FOI Officer
JISC Collections
Brettenham House
Lancaster Place
London
WC2E 7EN

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome then you can appeal to the Information Commissioner who may investigate on your behalf:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545745 Web: www.ico.gov.uk