Complaints and Reviews Method Statement

1. Introduction

1.1 This method statement describes the mechanism and process by which the University will handle complaints and requests for reviews in relation to its handling of information requests under Freedom of Information legislation and the management of its Publication Scheme. It forms part of the University Freedom of Information Policy.

1.2 The University of York aims to comply fully with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Data Protection Act 1998 and to provide an efficient, helpful service to those applying for information held by the University. If applicants feel that this service has not met these aims or their expectations, the University has in place the following procedures for reviewing decisions and handling complaints.

1.3 The University will treat as a complaint any written reply from an applicant expressing dissatisfaction with its response to a valid request for information or the operation of its Publication Scheme.

1.4 The University will cite the procedure in any refusal notices sent to applicants and notify applicants of their right to appeal to the Information Commissioner.

1.5 This method statement should be used alongside policy and guidelines issued by the Records Management Office and Office of the Information Commissioner which set out requirements and good practice.

2. Review Objectives

2.1 The University’s complaints and review process will:

  • provide a fair and thorough review of handling issues and of decisions taken. This includes decisions taken about where the public interest lies.
  • support a full re-evaluation of the case, taking into account the matters raised by the investigation of the complaint.
  • determine complaints promptly within a set and reasonable time for review (usually 20 working days).
  • be undertaken by someone senior to the person who took the original decision
  • enable a fresh decision to be taken on a reconsideration of all the relevant factors.

3. Review Process

3.1 Where an issue cannot be resolved informally, complaints will be dealt with by a senior officer not involved in the case or party to any original decision. This will usually be the University Registrar and Secretary or a nominee.

3.2 Complaints received by departments should be forwarded to the Records Manager.

3.3 All complaints will be acknowledged by the University. Any review will strive to produce a prompt determination of the complaint and, in its acknowledgement, the University will supply a target date for the determination. Target times should be reasonable and defensible. In the event of any review taking longer than the target time, the University will keep the complainant informed and give the reasons for the delay.

3.4 To enable the efficient and effective review of decisions, and to provide a body of support and expertise from which the Registrar can select a reviewer, the University will have a Review Panel.

3.5 The Registrar may accordingly

  • take forward the review,
  • delegate the review to one of the panel’s members, or
  • delegate the review to the panel as a collective.

3.6 The Review Panel will comprise:

  • The Registrar and Secretary;
  • the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Information;
  • the Director of Information.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Officer (or alternate) will be in attendance.

3.7 The nominated reviewer/panel will be supplied with the casework and any supporting guidance by the FOI Officer. For reviews of decisions this will be:

  • the original request,
  • the response,
  • copies of information provided,
  • copies of unredacted information (where applicable),
  • the review request,
  • the acknowledgement,
  • this method statement and appended principles.

The FOI Officer will also provide the reviewer with:

  • a case reference,
  • a brief outline of the reason for the review,
  • confirmation of the response deadline.

3.8 The reviewer or any appointed review panel may reverse or otherwise amend any decisions previously taken.

3.9 The University will always inform a complainant of the outcome of their complaint. Records of complaints and their outcome will be kept and monitored by the Records Manager.

Once the University’s internal review process is complete, if the applicant remains dissatisfied, they may write to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

3.10 Review outcomes and attendant actions:

Review OutcomeAttendant Action
Decide to review previously withheld information Disclose information as soon as practicable
Determine that University procedures improperly followed. Issue apology and take appropriate steps to prevent similar errors occurring
Uphold decision / find in University’s favour Inform applicant of his/her right to apply to the Information Commissioner

4. Oversight

4.1 The Information Security Board, chaired by the Director of Information, will monitor the effectiveness of this method statement and carry out regular reviews.

5. Further Information

5.1 University Complaints Procedure (for applicants)

5.2 Statutory Code of Practice (section VI, Complaints Procedures, refers) (PDF)

Appendix A Principles for complaint handling

An applicant’s right to complain is recognised at all times. The University of York undertakes to respect the following principles that govern its Freedom of Information complaints procedure.

  • Complaints should be dealt with as close to their source, and as informally, as possible;
  • Information on procedures, and on sources of advice, should be readily accessible in a clear and succinct form;
  • Appeals and complaints should be dealt with in accordance with the University's equality policies;
  • Complaints should be dealt with within a reasonable time, avoiding any undue delay;
  • Individual privacy/confidentiality will be respected as far as reasonably practicable, subject to the need to facilitate a fair and proper investigation and appropriate reporting of the outcome.;
  • Any complainant who has suffered a wrong has a right to have that wrong redressed, though vexatious complaints should not be allowed to abuse the process;
  • Procedures should ensure that, where a complaint is upheld, appropriate remedial action is taken;
  • The Registrar has discretion to appoint an investigative panel if s/he judges that the nature of the complaint warrants it; members of an investigative panel should not be judges in their own case, or act in any case in which conflict of interest may arise;
  • The available documentation should indicate which further procedures, if any, are open to a complainant who remains aggrieved following the outcome of a complaint;
  • A formal complaints procedure is available where a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of an informal complaint.

Document history and status

05 December 2012 Approved by Information Policy Executive
13 December 2012 Approved by Information Security Board
29 January 2016 Reviewed and approved by Information Security Board

Status

Review cycle: Three yearly

Date of next review: January 2019