Freedom of information
The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) gives you the right to ask any public sector organisation for all the recorded information they have on any subject.
Anyone can make a request for information – there are no restrictions on your age, nationality or where you live.
If you ask for information about yourself, then your request will be handled under the Data Protection Act.
Organisations you can request information from
You can request information from publicly funded organisations that work for the welfare of the whole population, for example:
- government departments
- local councils
- schools, colleges and universities
- health trusts, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries
- publicly funded museums
- the police
- non-departmental public bodies, committees and advisory bodies
How to make an FOI request
You can contact an organisation directly by letter or email to make a freedom of information request.
When making your request, you should include:
- your name
- an address where you can be contacted
- a detailed description of the recorded information you want
Most requests are free but you might be asked to pay a small amount for photocopies or postage. You will be told by the organisation if you have to pay anything.
You should receive the information within 20 working days. If the organisation needs more time, they will contact you and tell you when you can expect the information.
How you can receive the information
You can ask for the information in a number of different formats:
- paper or electronic copies of any original documents
- Braille documents
- audio format
- large print
Depending on the nature of your request, you can ask for all the information or just a summary.
If you plan to reproduce the information you receive, make sure you check the copyright status of it first.
If your request is turned down
Some sensitive information might not be available to members of the public. If this is the case, the organisation must tell you why they have withheld some or all of the information you requested.
An organisation can turn down your request if they think it will cost them more than £450 (£600 for a central government organisation) to deal with your request.
They might then ask you to be more specific so they can provide the information you’re looking for.
If an organisation doesn’t provide you with the information you request, you should first contact them and ask them to review their decision.
If you are still not satisfied, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.