Freedom of Information Part 2

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This is the second guest post from Paul Mutch from the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

There are many examples where FOI has been put to good use by a range of voluntary organisations and campaign groups. The Commissioner’s 2009 annual report details a number of these cases. This post shares some of them.

The disability charity ECAS, for example, has used FOI to access information on Edinburgh Council’s decision to reduce funding to the Edinburgh Disability Equality Forum, while Inclusion Scotland has actively used FOI to gather information on the availability of appropriate housing for people with disabilities.  The charity has gone on to use the information collected to work collaboratively with local authorities and politicians to improve services.   

The Rarer Cancers Forum has used FOI to discover that twice has many patients in Scotland have to appeal for special treatments than in England, while, the coalition group ‘for Scotland’s Disabled Children’ (fSDC) is currently using FOI to examine local authority spending on services for disabled children.  The progress of fSDC’s requests can be tracked online at www.whatdotheyknow.com, a website which helps individuals to make FOI requests.  

At a grassroots level, the C Diff Justice Group –set up by the families of those who died during the 2008 Clostridium Difficile outbreak – have been using FOI as part of their ongoing campaign to prevent any reoccurrence, while campaigners from the Scottish Rural Schools Network have actively used FOI in successful campaigns to prevent the closure of rural schools. Information released to the Network also played a role in ensuring that legislation to protect rural schools was strengthened by the Scottish Parliament.

As these groups demonstrate, FOI has the potential to be a valuable tool for the sector, and has already helped to make a difference in the work of third sector organisations.  For further information on using FOI, visit www.itspublicknowledge.info, or contact the Scottish Information Commissioner’s team at enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info, or by phone on 01334 464610.

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