PDP - FOI News Update

Targeted FOI audits on cards
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  Issue: 28/03/2018


Targeted FOI audits on cards
Elizabeth Denham has given a speech about 'trust, transparency and just-in-time FOI'. During the speech the Commissioner reiterated the need to extend FOI to relevant records of organisations that have been outsourced, and confirmed that she would continue to call on the government for this. Interestingly, the Commissioner also indicated that targeted audits are on the cards. "I am giving serious consideration to other ways in which my Office might be more pro-active in ensuring compliance with the law" she said. "We respond to complaints, but from a systemic perspective, I believe that own-motion compliance investigations can be a valuable adjunct to our complaints work", she added.
Healthcare secrecy plans criticised
Proposals from the Nursing and Midwifery Council to avoid public misconduct hearings for nurses and midwives are part of a "pattern of moves to limit the public's right to know about NHS safety problems", the Campaign for Freedom of Information has said. Under the NMC proposals, where a nurse or midwife admits to having made an error, the matter will be dealt with in private without the public hearing that now takes place. Reasons for any decision will be published, but there will apparently be no published transcript. CFOI director Maurice Frankel commented: "The secrecy would not be limited to information provided by staff involved in safety incidents. It would apply to any information from any source obtained during an investigation, including information from the NHS trust itself, independent experts or a drug or medical device manufacturer. Even test results on equipment or anonymised accounts of previous incidents would be kept secret indefinitely."
Frontmen for shell companies could face jail in UK property crackdown
Frontmen of foreign shell companies that are used to conceal the true ownership of some of London's most expensive properties may face up to two years in jail and unlimited fines under new government plans. The government announced the sanctions last Thursday as it unveiled plans to establish draft laws this Summer to lift the secrecy surrounding foreign ownership of billions of pounds worth of British property. The plans follow rules on ownership and control of UK companies that were introduced in 2016.
Charge public for information requests, say officials
Civil servants in Scotland have questioned the value of transparency laws and called for the public to be charged a fee to request information. In responses to an internal blog written by the country's most senior civil servant, the officials also admitted that the actions of SNP Special Advisers could fall foul of regulators. The Scottish National Party's approach to transparency is to be examined at Holyrood by the Public Audit Committee shortly.
ICO concerned about unrecorded Stormont meetings
A desire by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein for some meetings at Stormont not to be minuted represents an attempt to "subvert the democratic process", the Director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information has said. Maurice Frankel described as "unprecedented" the admission by the head of the Northern Ireland civil service David Sterling that some meetings weren't minuted because it was "safer" not to have a record which might have to be released following a Freedom of Information request. The Information Commissioner's Office has said it would be contacting Mr Sterling urgently.
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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.  
Estelle Dehon, Cornerstone Barristers
Estelle Dehon
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, 23rd April 2018
  • Belfast           Monday, 24th September 2018
  • Manchester   Tuesday, 16th October 2018
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download the 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, 24th April 2018
  • Belfast           Tuesday, 25th September 2018
  • Manchester   Wednesday, 17th October 2018
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download the PDF Training Catalogue 

FOI and Data Protection - How They Work Together

Damien Welfare, Cornerstone Barristers
Damien Welfare Cornerstone Barristers
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 (EIR)) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (as well as the provisions of the upcoming 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.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, 25th April 2018
  • Belfast            Wednesday, 26th September 2018
  • Manchester    Thursday, 18th October 2018
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download the PDF Training Catalogue 
Understanding the Environmental Information Regulations
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.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, 26th April 2018
  • Belfast            Thursday, 27th September 2018
  • Manchester    Friday, 19th October 2018
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download the PDF Training Catalogue 

Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information 

Qualify as an FOI Practitioner - upcoming training in April 2018
The PC.foi is the leading practical qualification for professionals who deal with FOI on a daily basis. 

Records Management Training Level 1 & 2
Final few places remaining 9th April 2018 - London

These invaluable introductory training sessions examine the core concepts and fundamentals of good records management practice

Freedom of Information Journal
Freedom of Information Journal
The latest edition (Volume 14, Issue 3), features the following articles:
Breaking the Code - Paul Gibbons, aka FOIMan
Donald Trump: the secretly open President - Ben Worthy, Birkbeck College UCL
Recent decisions of the Commissioner and Tribunal - Azeem Suterwalla & Alison Berridge, Monckton Chambers
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Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information 
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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