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Issue: 13/11/2019


Lords raise secrecy concerns over healthcare investigations proposals
Peers have highlighted concerns about proposals to shroud healthcare investigations in secrecy. In the Second Reading debate on the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill last week, Lords cited the News Media Association and Campaign for Freedom of Information's concerns about proposals for a "safe space" with a statutory ban on the disclosure of information, overriding freedom of information laws. Under the terms of the Bill, a factfinding and largely recommendations-based report will be made public, but there will be a wider ranging ban, subject to very limited exceptions, on the release of any other information held in connection with the investigation. Maurice Frankel, director, Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "The FOI Act already protects what participants say to a confidential inquiry into an NHS accident if disclosure would deter people from participating in future or reveal personal data about staff or patients. Remarkably, the Government doesn't seem to have realised this. It wants a new blanket prohibition on disclosure backed by the threat of prosecution. The only difference this would make is to keep secret information that couldn't harm investigations or privacy. This  will do nothing for patient safety but ensure that any shortcomings in the new system could not be exposed."

SIC tells Holyrood officials to remember laws
Scotland's Information Commissioner has written to Nicola Sturgeon's top civil servant to ensure ministers understand freedom of information laws. Daren Fitzhenry contacted Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary, following news revelations that the First Minister had been using her party account for government business. The revelation intensified suspicions that Ms Sturgeon is seeking to avoid scrutiny by using email accounts that may not always to be subject to freedom of information requests. Strict data retention rules apply to government email servers, whereas information can be deleted freely on private accounts. The Scottish government said that it had searched Ms Sturgeon's SNP email address on seven occasions, and that any correspondence relating to government business was forwarded to her ministerial address.

ICO starts publishing Information Notices
The Information Commissioner's Office has begun publishing its Information Notices. An Information Notice may be served where the Commissioner has received an application under section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or reasonably requires information from a public authority in order to enforce the requirements of the Act. A notice explains what information is required, the reasons why the ICO requires it and the timescale within which it must be provided. If a public authority fails to comply with an Information Notice, the Commissioner may commence Court proceedings under section 54 of the Act.

Sussex Police apologises for delay in responding to FOI request

Sussex Police has apologised after twice failing to respond in a timely manner to Worthing Herald's information requests. Requests linked to the newspaper's investigation into digital forensics took 108 and 178 working days for a response, the latter of which prompted a complaint to the Information Commissioner. James Walsh, Arun District Council leader and former Chairman of the Sussex Police Authority, said: "This is extremely disturbing, and unfortunately it feeds the notion that the police are rather hostile to openness and transparency in their dealings with the press and media generally." The force blamed 'human error' in monitoring and 'lack of communication between departments' for the delays. It said 1,220 requests had been made in 2019 alone, with 84% replied to on time. But its response rate fell below the Information Commissioner's target of 90 per cent for police forces - and represented a drop on the 89% figure reported at a performance meeting a year ago. A police spokesperson said the force was committed to 'substantially improving that figure', with a new system and two new caseworkers nearing completion of their training.

Third sector must have its say on FOI, says Campaign Group

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland is working for a successful conclusion to the current Scottish government consultation on extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to any organisation delivering public services or services of a public nature. Carole Ewart, Convener of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, said "both third sector and private sector organisations will be captured by FoISA and we know there is support for our view.  However, we are encouraging everyone to respond by 22nd November so we can all have our say and the roll out of the duty has third sector buy-in and is operationally realistic." Ms Ewart added the whole situation presented a reputational dilemma for third sector organisations: polls carried out by the Scottish Information Commissioner confirmed that 77% would be more likely to trust an authority that publishes a lot of information about its work.  

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Professional and practical Training Courses enable delegates to understand the legal requirements in key areas of compliance.  
The following is a selection of some of PDP's current courses.  
Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers
Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers
Since the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force in 2005 we have experienced a fundamental change in the relationship between UK government and its citizens as government information has become more publicly accessible. Greater transparency is also a key policy of the Coalition Government, and in light of the deficit reduction programme there is an ever increasing public interest in how public money is spent. This has led to the publication of a wide range of public sector datasets and proposals to expand the Freedom of Information Act through the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Information Officers are central to these developments and need to be fully aware of the Act and the impact of future changes to it.

This training session is designed to help those who are on the receiving end of requests for information and those who advise and assist them.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London           Monday, 25th November 2019
  • London           Monday, 27th January 2020   
  • Manchester    Monday, 24th February 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
FOI Practical Training - Level 2 (Applying the Exemptions)
Liz Fitzsimons, Eversheds
Liz Fitsimons

Public sector bodies must make daily decisions on how to respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and how to apply the exemptions in the Act. Those decisions are increasingly reviewed and, in many cases, overturned by the Information Commissioner, the Information Tribunal and the Courts. As case law develops and changes, public authorities need to ensure that they understand when the exemptions can be applied, and what they have to demonstrate to apply them correctly.

This training session considers in detail the practical application of the main FOI exemptions.

A discount is available for delegates booking both FOI Level 1 and FOI Level 2.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London           Tuesday, 26th November 2019
  • London           Tuesday, 28th January 2020 
  • Manchester     Tuesday, 25th February 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
Damien Welfare, Cornerstone Barristers
Damien Welfare
The competing demands of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation in the UK present challenges for all public bodies involved in collecting, holding and disclosing personal information. Understanding the interface between Freedom of Information laws (including the Environmental Information Regulations 2004) and the General Data Protection Regulation is essential for all those involved with information management in the public sector.

This session, which is designed for people who already work with FOI issues, explains the key principles underlying the differences between FOI and data protection laws, including when personal data should and should not be released in response to subject access requests and FOI/EIR requests. Delegates who do not have an existing understanding of the basics of FOI law are recommended to attend FOI Level 1 before attending this session.

The session includes:
  • knowing whether a request should be dealt with under the DPA or FOI law (or EIR)
  • the latest thinking on determining what is personal data
  • the interpretation and practical application of the personal data exemption
  • the legal principles governing access to third party personal information
  • applying relevant exemptions
  • disclosing staff information to outside third parties
  • analysing the practical implications of key decisions of the Commissioner and Information Rights Tribunal
  • disclosing third party data of professionals in the fields of health, education and social work
This session enables delegates to understand how to manage requests for information, and to achieve best practice within their organisation.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:

  • London           Wednesday, 27th November 2019
  • London           Wednesday, 29th January 2020
  • Manchester    Wednesday, 26th February 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
Damien Welfare_ Cornerstone Barristers 
Damien Welfare Cornerstone Barristers 
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 cover a wide range of information which has often been assumed to fall under the Freedom of Information Act.

The scope of EIR is not restricted just to "green" subjects or information, but extends to land use, planning, transport, waste, energy, agriculture, housing development, public nuisance, and aspects of public health, food safety, buildings maintenance and cultural sites.

Public authorities and their advisors, and those contracting with the public sector or carrying out public functions, need to understand the scope of the Regulations in order to handle information requests correctly. This session explains the meaning and scope of the EIR. It examines in detail the boundary with FOI, based on decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal and on guidance from DEFRA; including the potential role of a remoteness test in limiting the range of information covered. It analyses the "exceptions" and how to approach the public interest test.

The course equips practitioners to recognise and handle practical issues arising under the Regulations with confidence, and to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with information requests under the wrong regime. Topics covered include:
  • definition and scope of environmental information
  • application in the public and private sectors
  • differences between EIR and FOI
  • EIR exceptions, and how they compare with FOI exemptions
  • requests involving personal data
  • decisions of the Information Commissioner and Tribunal
  • charging
  • best practice: EIR requests and the duty to disseminate information
The session enables delegates to handle Environmental Information with confidence.
This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London            Thursday, 28th November 2019
  • London            Thursday, 30th January 2020 
  • Manchester     Thursday, 27 February 2020
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 

Four-day Programme includes intensive training sessions and an examination 
The four day Programme provides candidates with a solid knowledge of Freedom of Information law (and the Environmental Information Regulations), as well as an understanding of the practical implications for organisations of the legal requirements, including how to manage an FOI request from inception to completion

Next training sessions taking place in Manchester, Belfast & Cardiff

Records Management Levels 1 & 2
These highly practical sessions provide a thorough grounding and examine the core concepts of good records management practice  

PDP 2020 Training Catalogue  
Download our latest  
Training Catalogue for a comprehensive overview of 2020 training courses and qualifications for those working in Data Protection and Information Management
The latest edition (Volume 15, Issue 6), features the following articles:
Raising the curtain:
how FOI really works

So, what CAN we

Recent decisions of the  Commissioner and Tribunal

For more information, please visit PDP Journals

Flexible training options allow you to train alongside other commitments   
"I am very pleased to have achieved the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information. The programme provides excellent knowledge and understanding on the practical applications of handling requests for information"
Louise Smith
Financial Ombudsman Service

"A very worthwhile qualification which I wholeheartedly recommend to colleagues"
Barbara Tyldesley
The Environment Agency

"I am so pleased to have passed the Practitioner Certificate in FOI. The 4 day course was excellent and I am now confident in my role as FOI Officer for Social Services. The course has helped me develop my skills and knowledge of FOI/EIR and DP and I would encourage anyone working in this area to attend."
Rachael Strand
Flintshire County Council

"The Practitioner Certificate in FOI was an excellent opportunity to receive specialised training and gain a recognised qualification. In particular, I found the instructors to be both knowledgeable and engaging. As a regulator in an overseas territory, I was easily able to translate the learning into practice. I have and do encourage other FOI practitioners to take advantage of this training programme."
Clara Smith
Information Commissioner's Office (Grand Cayman)

"I am delighted to have passed my examination, achieving this qualification and attending the courses have been a very positive experience which have boosted my confidence and enthusiasm for this subject. I found the courses very informative and the course handout binders are an excellent reference tool which is very relevant to the workplace."

Julie Johnson
Durham County Council

"I'm delighted to have passed the exam; it was hard work preparing for an exam, having not sat one for over 10 years, but the course materials really helped structure my revision. Passing has increased my confidence in dealing with the Act which will be of benefit to myself as well as my organisation."

Heledd Thomas
Comisiynydd y Gymraeg

"I found this to be a comprehensive course, which was well structured to be relevant and of interest to everyone from FOI beginners to more seasoned practitioners. The course tutors were very knowledgeable and clearly very interested in their respective topic areas, and the course was similarly detailed and well-taught."
Mark Reynolds

"I'm thrilled to have gained this qualification. FOI can be a complicated area to understand and apply, but the tutors were excellent in bringing it to life in an interesting way."
Angela Sanderson
Big Lottery Fund

"The Practitioner's Certificate has equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to undertake my role. I found the courses well presented and easy to follow. The case studies are particularly useful, as they give an insight into different scenarios that one may experience. I would recommend PDP to anyone wanting to gain this qualification."
Kim Starbuck
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham


"Both the thought provoking training and materials as well as passing the exam will help to ensure we provide a prompt quality service when dealing with information requests particularly as those involving planning can raise complex issues"
John Pierce
The Department for Communities and Local Government


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