Public Information Leaflet
The Freedom of Information Act 2000
This guide is an overview of some of the main provisions of the Act and should
not be regarded as a legal document.
What does the Freedom of Information Act do?
The Freedom of Information (FOI)
Act 2000 gives everyone the right to request information from public authorities. The
FOI Act means that, from 1st January 2005, you can get information to help you to
understand better how this Department works, how we spend public money, and how
and why we make our decisions. You can also get information under:
The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), includes the General Data Protection
which amongst other things, gives individuals access to
their own personal information. The GDPR applies to private enterprise as well
as public authorities.
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs)
people access to “environmental information” held by organisations that
perform functions of a public nature.
How do I get information about the Department of Education under the FOI Act?
If you have access to the Internet you can get information on the departmental website www.education-ni.gov.uk
or visit www.nidirect.gov.uk
for further information on
accessing the websites of all Northern Ireland Government Departments. Alternatively
you can write to the Departmental Information Manager, Department of Education,
Rathgael House, 43 Balloo Road, Rathgill, Bangor, BT19 7PR.
How long does it take to get information?
Once a written request for information is
received, we have 20 working days to respond – although that time can be extended
A “qualified” exemption applies and we need to consider the public interest.
We are awaiting payment of a fee by you.
Sometimes we might need to contact you in order to clarify exactly what information
you are interested in. It will help us to process your request more quickly if you can
be as specific as possible about what information it is you want. Please make sure
that you provide us with your name and address and a contact telephone number.
Is there a cost for getting information?
This depends on a number of factors
including the volume of material requested. Responses to enquiries that cost the
Department less than £600 to process1 will normally be provided free of charge,
although there may be a small charge for disbursements2. The department has the
right to refuse to respond to a request that is estimated to cost more than £600 to
process unless the request is for information covered by EIRs, in which case the
Department has to process the request if you are prepared to pay the costs. What happens if the information I want is not available?
The FOI Act does not
require us to gather information or create information that is not already there. But we
are required to assist you with your request. We will contact you and tell you what
information we do hold that might help to answer your query or suggest another public
authority that may hold the information you are looking for.
What information can I have?
The FOI Act allows you access to information that a
public body holds. However, there are some things that cannot be given to the public.
For example, information about national security, law enforcement or personal
information about others – though you can obtain your own personal information, as
well as other supplementary information, through your Right of Access in the GDPR,
which is commonly referred to as a Subject Access Request. What if I am refused information?
We will tell you if information is being withheld
and why. We will also tell you whom you should contact to request an internal review
if you are not satisfied with our decision. And if you are still not satisfied after the
internal review you can request a review by the Information Commissioner (see details
below). Please contact us first if you are not satisfied with our response and tell us
why you believe that we are wrongly withholding information from you.
Where can I get more information about the FOI Act?
You can get more
information about FOI from the regional Northern Ireland office of the Information
Commissioner. The Commissioner’s details are:
028 90 278757 or 0303 123 1114
Northern Ireland, Information Commissioner’s Office, 3rd Floor, 14
Cromac Place, BELFAST, BT7 2JB.
1 Includes the cost of finding, sorting or editing the material
2 Disbursements may include costs of photocopying, printing, postage etc