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Issue: 27/11/2019

Information Commissioner renews call for FOI extension
Elizabeth Denham has renewed her call for the Freedom of Information Act to be extended to cover private companies providing public services (which is valued at £284 billion a year). Speaking at the Society of Editors conference, the Commissioner also expressed concern that government records had become more "ephemeral", with decisions made by WhatsApp, making it harder to keep and access records of big decision-making. She said that the ICO processed about 6,500 FOI appeals a year and that they did have capacity to take more, "but the laws have not kept up with the technology [and] so much government services are delivered by outsourced companies that are not subject to Freedom of Information". The ICO made a case for reforming access to information law in its report 'Outsourcing Oversight?' published in January, in which the Information Commissioner said "urgent action" was required to bring private companies providing public services under the scope of FOI.

UK regulator starts series covering regulation of access to information legislation
Colleagues at the ICO's access to information and compliance department have begun sharing their experiences and involvement in raising awareness of regulation of access to information legislation as part of a new blog series. The first post is by Gill Bull, ICO's Director of Freedom of Information Complaints and Compliance, who delivered the 2019 Bond Lecture at the British Records Association on 13th November 2019. At the event, Ms Bull discussed the intersections between the work of archivists and access to information within the context of 'everyday FOI' and reflected on how issues of trust and trustworthiness and the current public debate about the notion of kindness in public policy, relate to access to information. She said: "And of course I began by challenging the view that access to information can be seen as a dry topic and one that is principally about systems. For me, this is about people. And rather than being just about the past, it is as much about the future." The full text of the lecture is available here.

BBC launches news site on Tor network to thwart censorship attempts
A mirror of the BBC News website has been launched on a 'dark web' browser to make it available to those living under repressive regimes. It will be launched on the Tor network (short for 'The Onion Router'), a browser that allows the user to remain anonymous while using the internet. By creating this 'dark web' version of its international news site, the BBC hopes to ensure it can bring its free-press to citizens in countries that have previously attempted to censor it, such as China, Iran and Vietnam. The Tor network, developed by the US Navy to protect sensitive information, encases users' data in layers of encryption and directs the data through several networks worldwide. This allows people to conceal their identity, location and information, essentially making them untraceable when searching online.

Nearly all Scottish universities fail to record student suicides

All but one of Scotland's 15 universities fail to keep a record of student suicides, prompting criticism and calls for change. An investigation by The Ferret revealed that Stirling is the only Scottish university which knows how many of its students took their own lives. Other universities record student deaths, but do not distinguish suicides. Some universities said no records were kept out of sympathy and sensitivity for the students' families and loved ones, whilst others pointed out that they were not always told about causes of death. The Scottish Association for Mental Health called on universities to review their policies on recording student suicides. The Association's Head of Public Affairs, Carolyn Lochhead, said: "While we understand that this can be challenging, we would encourage all public bodies, including universities, to think about how they record these deaths, to make sure they can offer appropriate support to the staff and others who are affected, and to help all of us break down the stigma associated with suicide."

Perth and Kinross Council won't say how much was spent on Christmas party

Council bosses have refused to reveal how much public cash was spent on celebrities at this year's Christmas lights extravaganza. Atomic Kitten, Nina Nesbitt, Basil Brush and X Factor star Chico were among the acts that performed at last weekend's switch-on ceremony. The glamourous event draw nearly 100,000 people into the city centre and is thought to have generated about £2 million for the economy. However, the local authority has blocked by a bid by The Courier to find out how much money was spent on this year's acts, saying it wanted to keep financial details under wraps until a wider study, assessing the full economic impact, is ready to be published next year. The authority also claimed that it could be "disruptive" to council business. The refusal comes despite the council being ordered to release details of the 2015 event following intervention from Scotland's Information Commissioner.  

Freedom of infomation JournalMore freedom of information news and articles

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Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

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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, 27th January 2020   
  • Manchester    Monday, 24th February 2020
  • Bristol               Monday, 9th March 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, 28th January 2020 
  • Manchester     Tuesday, 25th February 2020
  • Bristol               Tuesday, 10th March 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, 29th January 2020
  • Manchester    Wednesday, 26th February 2020
  • Bristol              Wednesday, 11th March 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, 30th January 2020 
  • Manchester     Thursday, 27th February 2020
  • Bristol               Thursday, 12th March 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 

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

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  
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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