Enquiry Handling Method Statement

1. Introduction

1.1 This method statement describes the process by which the University will handle requests for information 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.

1.3 This method statement should be used alongside policy and guidelines issued by the Records Management Office (www.york.ac.uk/records-management) and Information Commissioner’s Office which set out requirements and good practice.

2. Enquiry Handling Objectives

2.1 The University’s enquiry handling process will ensure that:

  • a systematic approach is taken to receiving and dealing with all enquiries and that all required and appropriate steps are taken
  • enquiries are handled efficiently and promptly
  • information is retained in the event that a re-evaluation of the case is required
  • legislative timescales are met
  • applicants can see the process by which their enquiry is being/has been handled
  • all staff can deal with a request in the appropriate manner and will understand the circumstances in which guidance must be sought from the Records Management Office before proceeding.

3. Enquiry Handling Process

3.1 Enquiries must be processed in accordance with the flow diagram shown at Appendix A. Further detailed guidance for each step is provided on the University web site: http://www.york.ac.uk/records-management/foi/staff-guidance/processing/

3.2 Freedom of Information legislation governs any written request for information which gives the requester’s name, address and describes the information sought. Requests for environmental information may written or verbal. Routine requests for information will be dealt with by departments through the normal course of business. Departmental processes must however take appropriate account of the legislative frameworks in 1.2.

3.3 Where a non-routine information request is received, the request cites the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations, then it is recommended that the request is logged with the Records Management Office (foi@york.ac.uk).

3.4 Where an individual writes to request copies of his/her own personal information, this will be handled under the University’s subject access procedures and Data Protection Policy. The enquiry must be passed to the Records Manager (dataprotection@york.ac.uk).

3.5 Requests for information contained in the University’s Publication Scheme will be dealt with in the normal course of business by the appropriate department. Staff dealing with enquiries must be familiar with the Scheme and the information it makes available.

3.6 When responding to enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations, the reply must state (a) whether the information sought is held by the University and, if it is, (b) communicate that information, unless one or more of the exemption(s) applies.

3.7 If an exemption is to be claimed, the Records Management Office must be informed and consulted.

3.8 If the claimed exemption is prejudice-based, the department claiming the exemption must provide the Records Management Office with an assessment of the nature, seriousness, context and likelihood of the harm.

3.9 If the exemption is qualified, and therefore subject to a public interest test, the FOI Public Interest Test Method Statement must be followed.

3.10 If it is found that a fee should be levied for fulfilment of the enquiry, the FOI Fees and Charging Method Statement must be followed.

3.11 If an enquiry is to be refused, the refusal notice should be issued by or with the agreement of the Records Management Office. Refusal notices must carry information as to applicants’ right of appeal.

3.12 If an applicant is dissatisfied with the way in which their enquiry is handled or with the operation of the University’s Publication Scheme, their response should be treated as a complaint and must be dealt with using the FOI Complaints and Reviews Method Statement.

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 Statutory Code of Practice: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/information-access-rights/foi/foi-section45-code-of-practice.pdf

5.2 Staff guidance: http://www.york.ac.uk/records-management/foi/staff-guidance/

5.3 Information Commissioner’s guidance: https://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/freedom_of_information/guide

Appendix A Flow diagram for enquiry handling request

Flow diagram for enquiry handling request

Document history and status

13 December 2012 Approved by Information Security Board
27 March 2013 Approved by Information Policy Executive
29 January 2016 Reviewed and approved by Information Security Board

Status

Review cycle: Three yearly

Date of next review: January 2019