It is simple and straightforward for anyone to use their information rights and make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
However, many people might feel a little unsure and could find some training helpful. If you’re interested, we are organising some free online training for UNISON members in May. It will explain clearly how to make requests that can help with your branch campaigns.
UNISON is pleased to be working with the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) who have produced this briefing/guide.
The CFoIS will deliver Using Your FOI Rights training in a 2 hour online session. This will be offered over several dates/times in May, with a further block of sessions likely later. Dates will be publicised in early March here and in emails to branch secretaries and on social media. UPDATE: 17 March Book now https://www.unison-scotland.org/free-foi-training-book-now/
We hope these will prove popular with branches and activists and any interested members who want to seek out key facts and figures to use in your union work and related campaigns. You might want to ask for information, for example, about PPE, about cleaning rotas, about PPP/PFI contracts, about spending on health and safety, about health and social care staffing, about climate emergency work, or whatever is useful to you.
The sessions will include case examples of relevant FOI requests and what information was released. You may not know that it was a UNISON member’s FOI request for the controversial PFI contract for the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary that led eventually in 2007 to the Scottish Information Commissioner ordering it to be published. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7059168.stm https://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/healthcare/pfieri.html https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12605602.the-foi-rulings-that-left-a-mark-on-public-life/
Of course, you don’t need to wait for training to make use of the briefing here in any current branch work, if useful. There is a link to the Scottish Information Commissioner’s very helpful At a Glance information pages and some simple tips.
Some members and activists may already be used to making FOI requests, but want to go a little deeper. We will run a session that goes into more detail. Any members interested in learning more about the training when the dates are finalised can email UnisonTrain@cfois.scot now to be put on an email list for information about the training – coming shortly, once dates are confirmed. Please indicate your preference for Introduction to FOI or FOI – Digging Deeper.
FINALLY – the next meeting of the Scottish Public Information Forum is online on Friday 26 February, 10.30am-12noon. It will look at the practice of FOI during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry will speak, including about his Special Report, published in December: Impact of Covid-19 on FOI in Scotland. http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/News/20201217.aspx
Fiona Montgomery, of UNISON Scotland’s Bargaining & Campaigns team, will also speak, including about ensuring FOI teams are properly resourced. https://www.unison-scotland.org/scottish-government-and-all-public-bodies-must-properly-resource-foi-teams-through-pandemic/
There will be a discussion and the regular reports and updates from the Scottish Government, civil society, public and private sector organisations attending. See the full agenda and register (free) here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scottish-public-information-forum-spif-tickets-141419374155
CFoIS organises the Scottish Public Information Forum (SPIF) for civil society, the public and private sectors. Normally it takes place twice a year, but due to a grant from the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust meetings will be monthly until October 2021. For further information go to the CFoIS website firstname.lastname@example.org @CFoIScot