Covid-19 FOI UpdateCovid-19 virus: information for requesters

20 March 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 is putting pressure on us all - not least those providing vital public services.

While FOI law still applies during this time, many organisations will be facing unprecedented pressures – for example as a result of staff absences, office closures, or a significant increase in demand for services, such as healthcare.

Organisations that are affected in this way may find it challenging to respond to information requests within the 20 working day timescale set out in law.

As a result, we've written to public bodies to tell them that we'll be sympathetic to unavoidable failures to meet FOI timescales which are caused by coronavirus Covid-19. Read our full statement for authorities on this here.

We'd also suggest that requesters think about the impact of coronavirus Covid-19 when making a request. Your information rights remain vitally important, and the FOI principles of openness, transparency and accountability will play an essential role in supporting public trust at this difficult time. However, if you're planning a request, it's worth bearing in mind that there may be things you can do to reduce the impact of a request on an organisation while still accessing the information you need.

For example, when drafting your request, think about whether there is any way the request might be narrowed to reduce its impact and speed up your response. Our tips for requesters page has lots of advice that can help with this.

And remember, FOI law also requires that public bodies publish lots of information about their work – including information on the decisions they make, the services they provide, their policies and procedures and the money they spend. It's always a good idea to take a look at their website before making a request – the information you need might just be a few clicks away.

Temporary Office Closure

The Scottish Information Commissioner's office has closed temporarily in response to the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. Find out more about how this is affecting our services.

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