How to access information

We are committed to operating openly and will meet all reasonable requests for information in order to maintain a high level of public trust and confidence in our organisation. We welcome the rights of access to information which are set out in the:

Our commitment to openness is balanced by the need for us to maintain high standards of care in handling personal and confidential information, and the need to maintain confidentiality where disclosure would not be in the public interest and where disclosure is not permitted under the legislation that covers the Ombudsman’s role, the Local Government Act 1974.

We publish extensive information about our organisation and how we deal with complaints here on our website. Full details of all information available is listed in What we publish.

How to make a request

If you wish to request information, you should contact:

Information and Records Officer
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s office
PO Box 4771
Coventry CV4 0EH

Email: foi.officer@lgo.org.uk

When making a request, please include the following details:

  • your name and address (an email address will do)
  • the information you want to see
  • any preference you have for the way you want the information sent to you (for example, hard copy or by email).

Sometimes our emails go into your 'junk' folder so please check, if you are expecting a reply from us. To make sure you receive emails from us, we recommend you add '@lgo.org.uk' to your email safe senders list. See Additional Information for Hotmail/Live/Outlook.com/Gmail users.

Requests made under the FOIA need to be in writing (email or letter). Requests for personal information made under the DPA and environmental information requests do not need to be in writing but it is helpful if these are also written. When we receive a request, we will acknowledge receipt of it within five days. There are different time limits set down for us to deal with requests for information under DPA and under FOIA and EIR, but generally we will try meet requests within the shorter deadline of 20 working days. There is no charge for making a request.

If you have a general enquiry about our service please contact us on 0300 061 0614 (please note that calls are recorded for training and quality purposes).

Additional help

Please let us know if you have difficulty using our service, for example, if you have a disability or if English is not your first language. For instance, if you need an interpreter, we can arrange this.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right of access to all types of ‘recorded’ information we hold. It imposes obligations on us to disclose information, but subject to a range of exemptions.

One of the aims of the Act is to make public authorities, including the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, clear and proactive about the information they will make public. Central to this is our Publication Scheme (see What we publish) which sets out what we will publish as a matter of course, in what formats, and whether there is charge for it. You can request a printed copy.

The information contained in the Ombudsman's complaint files is not available to the public. Section 44 of the FOIA exempts information if its disclosure is prohibited by another Act. The Local Government Act 1974, section 32(2) prohibits an Ombudsman from disclosing information obtained for the purposes of an investigation except in very limited circumstances including the investigation itself and any published report or decision statement. However, most information in a complaint file will usually be available to the person who made the complaint via a ‘subject access request’ under the Data Protection Act.

There are other exemptions that may apply to information held by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The General Data Protection Regulation 2016 and Data Protection Act 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018 and applies to all EU member states. It also applies to the UK until we leave the EU when it will be brought into UK legislation, meaning the same data protection framework will continue to apply after Brexit. It lays down rules about the way we have to process and protect the personal data we hold about you.

The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) brings the GDPR into UK law. It covers the ‘derogations’ allowed in the GDPR, e.g. specific exemptions from disclosing data to data subjects in response to a subject access request.

Your right to information

You have the right to access information we hold about you and can ask us for this. This is known as a 'subject access' request. This type of request can only be from, or with the consent of, the data subject. That is you, the person the requested information is about.

The DPA concerns personal data which includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller of any other person in respect of the individual.

What you are entitled to

As a ‘data subject’ you have a right of access to personal data held about you. This includes:

  • a description of the data being processed
  • the purposes for which it is being processed
  • any potential recipients of the data
  • the source of the data if this is known, and
  • the identity of the data controller (this is the Commission for Local Administration in England, the body that runs the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman service).

Note that you are entitled only to the information itself, rather than to copies of the actual documents or records in which it is contained.

Disclosure of some information we hold may be exempt from particular provisions of the DPA. This includes circumstances where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the proper discharge of our function. We will tell you if an exemption applies to your request.

The Environmental Information Regulations

The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide a parallel right of access to information to that in the FOIA specifically relating to environmental information. The definition of ‘environmental information’ is wide and covers such things as waste, emissions, noise, land and historic sites.

What you will receive

We will either:

  • give you the information you’ve asked for
  • let you know where you can find the information (for FOIA requests)
  • confirm that we don’t hold the information, or
  • explain why we cannot give you the information.

If information within a requested document is withheld, the document will be clearly marked to show where information has been removed and the exemption we have used. If we refuse to supply all or part of any other information you have asked for we will write to you giving our reasons for refusal.

If you are unhappy with how we respond to your request for information, you can make a complaint to us within two months of the date we issue our response to you. After that you can contact the Information Commissioner’s office if you are still not happy (see below). We will send a complaints leaflet with a response to your request for information.

(If you have a complaint about the way your complaint about a council was dealt with by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, please see the sections on Challenging our decisions and Complaints about our service.)

The Information Commissioner

The operation of the DPA, FOIA, GDPR and EIR is supervised by the Information Commissioner. If you make a request for information and believe we have not dealt with it properly, you can complain to the Information Commissioner. Further details of the role and powers of the Information Commissioner can be obtained by contacting them:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
WILMSLOW
Cheshire   SK9 5AF

Helpline: 0303 123 1113

Tel: 01625 545700
Fax: 01625 545510
www.ico.org.uk

 

Last updated: December 2018

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