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Common questions from the voluntary sector

Our Your Rights pages provide information on how you can make use of your FOI rights.

Below we also answer some of the other questions that we are asked by voluntary sector staff.

 

Are voluntary organisations covered by FOI?

Voluntary sector and community organisations are not subject to FOI law. FOI currently applies only to Scottish public authorities, organisations designated by Scottish Ministers and companies that are wholly-owned by public authorities. Requests received by voluntary organisations will not, therefore, qualify as FOI requests, and there will be no legal duty to respond. This does not mean, of course, that voluntary organisations should not respond to the requests for information they receive, just that there is no legal obligation to do so, and no right of appeal if the requester is unhappy with the response.

We are sometimes asked whether organisations that receive funding from Scottish public authorities will be covered by FOI. The answer is also no. As above, unless the body in question is a public authority, or wholly-owned by a public authority, it won't be covered. Information requests may, however, be made to the public authority that provides the funding, and it would be the duty of that organisation to respond to those requests - but only in terms of the relevant information that the organisation holds.

While voluntary organisations are not covered by FOI, they will have legal responsibilities under the Data Protection Act if they hold personal data. For more information on this, ask the UK Information Commissioner's Office at www.ico.org.uk.

Is FOI likely to be extended in future?

The FOI Act was extended to cover bodies set up by local authorities to run cultural and leisure services from April 2014, special and grant-aided schools and private prisons from 2016 and Registered Social Landlords from 2019. The issue of whether FOI should be extended is continuing to be considered by the Scottish Government.

Do I have to identify myself as a member of a voluntary organisation when requesting information?

No, the FOI Act only requires that you provide a name and an address for correspondence (email or postal). You can, if you wish, choose to identify yourself as representing a voluntary organisation. In some cases it may help the authority understand and respond to your request if you do, but there is no legal obligation to do so.

Can a voluntary organisation make a request on behalf of a client?

Yes, there is nothing to stop anyone making a request on behalf of another person. However, information requests must contain the name of the person on whose behalf the request is made, in order for the request to be valid.

 

If your question hasn't been answered on this page, please contact us to discuss any issue relating to FOI.




Find out more...

Voluntary sector homepage - Return to our homepage for the voluntary sector.

User experiences - Learn about real-life examples of campaigners using FOI to help achieve their goals.

Hints and tips - Read our hints and tips on how voluntary organisations can get the most out of FOI.

Your Rights - Explore our practical guidance on making a request - and what to do if you don't get what you're looking for.

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