You have the right to ask to see recorded information held by public authorities.
Get answers from the government and public sector
Make a request for information to a UK public authority and by law, they have to respond
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a give you the right to see information.
If you ask for environmental information, your request will be handled under the Environmental Regulations (EIRs).
Environmental information includes things like carbon emissions or the environment’s effect on human health.
You do not need to tell the organisation which law or regulations you’re making your request under.
Organisations you can ask for information
You can request information from some public authorities, such as:
- government departments, devolved administrations, other public bodies and committees
- local councils
- schools, colleges and universities
- the NHS – including hospitals, GPs, dentists, pharmacists and opticians
- publicly owned companies
- publicly funded museums, galleries and theatres
- the police and fire services
How to make an FOI request
You must make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in writing. You can do it by:
- social media
- online form – check the organisation’s website or the government department’s page to see if they have an online form
- Use the excellent What Do They Know website to make and publicise your FOI request.
Before you make a request
You might not need to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request if the organisation has:
- already published the information
- previously responded to an FOI request
Check their website for responses to previous FOI requests. This is sometimes known as a ‘disclosure log’. You can search for published responses to FOI requests from government departments, agencies and arms length bodies.
You can also email or phone the organisation to ask if they’ve already published the information or responded to an FOI request.
What to include
You should give:
- your name (not needed if you’re asking for environmental information)
- a contact postal or email address
- a detailed description of the information you want – for example, you might want all information held on a subject, or just a summary
You can ask for information in a particular format, such as:
- paper or electronic copies of information
- audio format
- large print
When you’ll get a response
The organisation should send you the information within 20 working days of receiving your request. Some schools are allowed more time during school holidays.
In Scotland, you should allow 6 extra days if you send your request by post.
The organisation will tell you when to expect the information if they need more time.
When your information will be shared
If you’ve sent an FOI request to several government departments, they may share your name and request between them. This is to help deal with your enquiry more effectively.
No other details will be shared and your information will not be used for any other purpose.
Most requests are free but you might be asked to pay a small amount for photocopies or postage. The organisation will tell you if you have to pay anything.
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