Responding to Requests for Information

How do I recognise a Freedom of Information Request?

What should I do if I receive a Freedom of Information Request?

Who is responsible for responding to a Freedom of Information Request?

Do I have to release all information requested?

How should I respond to a request for information?

How long have I got to respond to a request?

Should I keep a log of all requests received?

What should I do if it is decided to refuse the information?

What happens if I receive a complaint about how a FOI request has been dealt with?

How do I recognise a Freedom of Information request?

A request must be made in a recorded form e.g. letter, e-mail, recorded message, it can be given/addressed to any member of staff at the University. The requester does not need to explain why they want the information nor mention Freedom of Information. The requester need only ask for the information and provide a name and contact details to which to provide the information.

What should I do if I receive a Freedom of Information request?

The University has a duty to provide assistance and advice to applicants, if the information requested is unclear, we should ask the applicant for more information and help them to establish what they require.

It is important that requests for information are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner. The University only has 20 working days in which to deal with the request. When a request is received it is vital that it is directed to the relevant department immediately.

There will be three main types of request that you may receive:

Requests for information that is available via the University’s Publication Scheme, the individuals requesting this information should be directed to the publication scheme.

Requests for information that you already routinely provide, you should continue to deal with these requests as before, ensuring that the 20-day deadline is met.

Requests for information that you do not normally provide. If your department holds the requested information these requests can be dealt with within your department.

If the request is for information that your department does not deal with forward the request to foi@exeter.ac.uk immediately. If the request seems unusual, you are not sure about releasing the information or your department does not hold the information refer the request to foi@exeter.ac.uk.

Who is responsible for responding to a Freedom of Information request?

If a member of staff receives a request for information it is their responsibility to ensure that the request is directed to the correct department, or to contact foi@exeter.ac.uk if they are unsure who deals with the information requested. Once the request is received by the correct department that department/member of staff is then responsible for ensuring that the request is answered. In the case where there may be difficulties responding to the request the Data Protection/Freedom of Information Office should be informed immediately.

Do I have to release all information requested?

Not always, there are exemptions laid down in the Freedom of Information Act that mean we may not have to release certain types of information.

If the request is for Personal Information, i.e. information relating to a individual or group of individuals, the request will be covered by the Data Protection Act and the request should be forwarded to the DPO who will continue to deal with Data Protection requests.

Other exemptions include: Information intended for future publication, Information accessible to the applicant by other means, Commercial Interests and Health and Safety

A full list of exemptions is available here.

If you think that an exemption may apply to a request for information you have received please contact foi@exeter.ac.uk.

How should I respond to a request for information?

Wherever possible and practical we should provide the information to the applicant in the requested format i.e. electronic, paper copy, summary.

How long have I got to respond to a request?

We must reply promptly to all requests and in any event no later than 20 working days following the date on which the request is received. The 20 days starts when the University receives the request, not when the relevant department receives it. Working days are all days except Saturdays, Sundays and Bank holidays; this means that University closure days are included in the 20-day count.

Should I keep a log of all requests received?

It is not necessary to keep a log of requests for information you are already routinely providing, however it is a good idea to maintain a log of other requests. This will help you to keep track of the request and the deadline, if complaints are received we will have a record of why the request was dealt with in a certain way and a record of requests will help to highlight any areas of repetitious requests where we may be able to make information more readily available.

The format of the log can be decided by your department, however it should include: Receipt Date, Request for information, Applicant details, Details of what information was/wasn’t provided and why, Format of final information, Date information sent to applicant. If the request is not a straightforward request and exemptions are being considered a more detailed log of the process should be kept.

What should I do if it is decided to refuse the information?

If you believe that the information requested is covered by an exemption, you should contact the Data Protection/Freedom of Information Office. If it is decided that an exemption can be applied, we must inform the applicant which exemption we are relying on and why. If only parts of a document are to be released, it should be made clear that redactions have taken place and what exemption has been applied. Please contact the Records Manager for further advice on this.

What happens if I receive a complaint about how a FOI request has been dealt with?

If a complaint is received you should contact the Records Manager and respond to the applicant informing them when they should expect a response.