Process information for finalization of dependents grants.

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Student Loans Company Limited,

It is my understanding that accounts with an award for Grants for Dependents during the 12/13 AY (and earlier) underwent a 'finalisation' process in which actual household income was confirmed against that estimated at the start of the year.

I also understand for GFD awarded since 13/14 AY, this finalisation process has changed.

Please note I am interested only in this process as it relates to claims for ADG and PLA, and not for childcare grants.

Please supply me with the following;

a) a copy of training materials, guidance documents and process manuals relating to the finalization process as used for finalizing ADG and PLA awarded with respect to the AY 12/13

b) a copy of training materials, guidance documents and process manuals relating to the finalization process as used for finalizing ADG and PLA awarded with respect to the AY 13/14 onwards, or alternatively, documentation describing the changes from the previous process if such exist

and,

c) copies of correspondence, briefing notes, or minutes of meetings in which the changes, or the reasons behind them, are discussed.

Yours faithfully,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your email dated 22/09/2014 requesting information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your request has been logged under
reference 190-14. Please quote this reference in future communications.

A full response will be issued in due course.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

3 Atodiad

Dear Mr Lewis

I refer to your email dated 22/09/2014 requesting the following information
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”):

“It is my understanding that accounts with an award for Grants for
Dependents during the 12/13 AY (and earlier) underwent a 'finalisation'
process in which actual household income was confirmed against that
estimated at the start of the year.

I also understand for GFD awarded since 13/14 AY, this finalisation process
has changed.

Please note I am interested only in this process as it relates to claims
for ADG and PLA, and not for childcare grants.

Please supply me with the following;

a) a copy of training materials, guidance documents and process manuals
relating to the finalization process as used for finalizing ADG and PLA
awarded with respect to the AY 12/13

b) a copy of training materials, guidance documents and process manuals
relating to the finalization process as used for finalizing ADG and PLA
awarded with respect to the AY 13/14 onwards, or alternatively,
documentation describing the changes from the previous process if such
exist

and,

c) copies of correspondence, briefing notes, or minutes of meetings in
which the changes, or the reasons behind them, are discussed.”

Response

Having conducted a search of our records, I can confirm that the Student
Loans Company Limited (“SLC”) does hold some information that falls within
the scope of your request. Please note that this may not be every single
document/piece of information that falls within the scope of your request,
as your request, in particular question (c) is wide-ranging by itself.

The legislative provisions implementing the changes brought in for academic
year 2013/14 can be found in The Education (Student Fees, Awards and
Support) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (the “2012 Amendment Regulations”) (
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/...).

Information that is already in the public domain is considered technically
exempt from disclosure under section 21(1) of the FOIA, as it is reasonably
accessible to you by other means. Information that is publicly available
is as follows:

Policy Guidance
Grants for Dependants and Grants for Travel 2012/13
http://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media...

Grants for Dependants and Grants for Travel 2013/14 -
http://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media...

SLC’s Knowledgebase

Information can also be found on SLC’s Knowledgebase, which is an online
repository used by customer advisors. Information for both academic years
can be found at the following links:

http://cp-slc.kb.net/#tab:homeTab:crumb:...

http://cp-slc.kb.net/#tab:homeTab:crumb:...

http://cp-slc.kb.net/#tab:homeTab:crumb:...

Internal training documents
Some training material covering the policy changes brought in for academic
year 2013/14 are attached. As the training material covers policy changes
in general, and not limited to the changes for Grants for Dependants, the
relevant extracts covering Grants for Dependants have been provided, as the
other policy changes fall outside the scope of your request.

Rational for policy changes
With regard to question (c), as stated above, this question is considered
to be wide-ranging, however, in addition to the attached document “13-14
Apply and Assess GFD Walkthrough”, the Explanatory Memorandum to the 2012
Amendment Regulations sets out the reasons behind the policy changes. The
Explanatory Memorandum can be found at:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/...
(see paragraph 7.5)

Internal review process

I trust that my answer to you is satisfactory; however, if you are unhappy
with the decisions made by me in relation to your freedom of information
request, you may ask SLC for an internal review.

Any such appeal would be conducted by John Brown, Company Secretary, 100
Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7JD. You may request a review by writing to
John Brown or by emailing the FOI Office
([SLC request email]). In the event that John Brown took part
in the original decision, then David Wallace, Deputy Chief Executive, will
conduct the review. SLC will only consider requests for internal reviews
which are made within 3 months of the date of our original response (except
in exceptional circumstances).

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

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

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

(See attached file: 13-14 Apply and Assess and Service Foundation
Walkthrough 1.0 SFE, SFW & SFNI Audience - GFD extracts.pdf)(See attached
file: 13-14 Apply and Assess GFD walkthrough - GFD extracts.pdf)(See
attached file: AY13-14 Apply and Assess PDF 1.0 - GFD extracts.pdf)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Chapman,

Thank you for your reply to my request for information.

Firstly, you have provided some links which purport to be links to articles in your knowledge base, claiming that the information contained therein is both pertinent to my request, and reasonably accessible.

Unfortunately, all 3 links redirect to a page which states, in its entirety, “Your IP Address is blocked by this site. Please contact your portal administrator for any assistance.” This information is clearly not pertinent to my request.

I am sure this was a simple oversight, and you had expected that the information available internally would also be publicly accessible, but this appears not to be the case. Since I believe this to be a genuine mistake, I am sure you will be able to correct this within 5 working days, without the need for a formal request for an internal review.

Secondly, you say “please note that this may not be every single document/piece of information that falls within the scope of your request” but do not seem to explain why you have not supplied the remaining information, apart from to note that a part of my request is ‘wide-ranging’. I have conducted a text-search of both the legislation and the guidance issued by the ICO, but I am unable to find a definition or explanation as to what you might mean by this term.

I must make the assumption , therefore, that you mean part c of request is considered to be ‘too-big’, in the sense that the cost of compliance might reasonably be expected to exceed the costs limit, although you have not explicitly stated this.

I can confirm therefore, that the advice and guidance you have provided me with regards to where I might find publicly accessible information regarding the rationale of these changes is satisfactory and therefore completes part c of my request.

I would however, like a full response to parts a and b. I am, of course, willing to clarify my request in response to your request for further particulars if this would be helpful, but for the avoidance of doubt, I am seeking training materials and process guidance that would be referred to by an employee or agent of the Student Loans Company who is new to the role, or otherwise unfamiliar with, the actual process of finalising a claim for GFD (excluding childcare grants, as above) both in the 12/13, and 13/14 academic years. I am interested in the actual mechanics of the process undertaken to confirm entitlement, and how that has changed in response to the changes in legislation.

If, and only if, complying with both parts of this clarified request would exceed the appropriate costs limit, I would be prepared to restrict my request to part a only, for the 12/13 AY.

It remains a possibility that the information on your knowledge base is such that it satisfies my request. As such, I am also hopeful you will be able to comply with this in the next 5 working days, without the need for an internal review.

If however, you will be unable to do so for whatever reason, or it would be helpful if I were to request an internal review, please let me know and I shall reformulate my request accordingly.

Yours Sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your email. I apologise that the links provided do not work.
I was not aware that there was an issue with these links as they were
checked before they were sent. I am currently investigating this
internally, as access to our Knowledgebase should be possible externally.

I will provide you with a full response within your 5 working day deadline
(28/10/2014). If I cannot resolve the internet link issue I will provide
these as a pdf attachment.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Chapman,

Do you have an update for me regarding the inaccessible knowledge base articles, and a full response to parts a and b of my FOI request?

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Lewis

Please accept my apologies for not being able to access the links sent to
you in my email dated 20/10/2014. I have previously released links to our
Knowledgebase under FOI, and no one has previously advised of any issues
with not being able to access the links. I have been advised that our
Knowledgebase should be accessible internally and externally by using the
following link: http://cp-slc.kb.net.

However, having checked this myself, it does appear that the site is locked
down, although can be accessed by using the link available when entering
the key words "SLC Knowledgebase" into Google or other internet search
engines. I have tried this personally, and this route does allow external
access to the Knowledgebase. However, in the circumstances, I have copied
the articles I provided links to and these are being provided in the pdf
attachment to this email.

By way of explanation of my previous reference to "wide-ranging", this
phrase is routinely used by public authorities where the cost of compliance
is expected to exceed the appropriate costs limit and the costs limit
exemption is applied. For your own request, as some information falling
within the scope of your request had been located within the costs limit,
but could not be verified as being a full search of all our records, this
is why reference was made to the documentation possible not being every
single document we hold. My FOI contact for Grants for Dependants is
currently out of the office, and I have asked my contact's manager to
confirm whether or not we do hold any further information within the scope
of your request, and provided your clarification to ensure that we fully
cover everything you are seeking. At the time of sending this response, I
have just received 2 lengthy documents covering all GFDs. These need to be
reviewed to consider if they cover what you are seeking - material on the
GFD finalisation process, excluding CCGs. I aim to complete a review of
these 2 documents tomorrow, and will email you again then.

Your email had indicated that the Knowledgebase articles may satisfy your
request. Once you have considered the attachment to this email, if you
could advise further.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

(See attached file: SLC Knowledgebase articles re GFD finalisation.pdf)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Chapman,

Thank you for your email.

I though perhaps the knowledge base articles might be the training materials I described in my clarification. The articles you have supplied, while useful, do not appear to be such.

I would be grateful , therefore, if you would continue your search.

With regards to the process information for Childcare Grant, I specified I was not interested in CCG in order to assist. If the process for each GFD was described separately, I wanted to avoid you wasting your time searching for CCG information when this was not necessary.

If however, the finalisation process for all GFDs are described in the same document, I would take no issue in you releasing the entire document and allowing me to sort of what pertains to ADG and PLA specifically, rather than waste any time going through the documents and deleting the items relating to CCG.

While I am not interested in the CCG process, there might be others who are, and since your response will be published on the 'What do they know' website, this might have the effect of avoiding any similar FOI requests in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

Dear FOI Publication Scheme,

You wrote on 29th October explaining that you had received some documents from the relevant department, you were in process of reviewing them, and expected to be in a position to write to me again on the 30th.

In light of your comments that your GFD contact was away, I have allowed an additional fortnight before contacting you again, but in that time, it seems no further information has been forthcoming.

I believe I have been particularly flexible in allowing additional time to fully respond to my request. I am sure you will understand, however, that I can not allow this process to proceed indefinitely. As such, I am requesting an internal review.

Your initial response on the 20th of October made it clear that not all the information you held that would fall under my request was included, despite the 20th being the deadline for a response under the Act.

Believing I would be assisting you in complying with your obligations under the Act without incurring any unnecessary delay or effort on both our parts, I did not make a request for an internal review at that time. Instead, although I believe my request was sufficiently well-formulated, I chose to rephrase my request, and allow further time to comply. I made it clear that I would request an internal review if necessary.

My clarified request was "...for the
avoidance of doubt, I am seeking training materials and process
guidance that would be referred to by an employee or agent of the
Student Loans Company who is new to the role, or otherwise
unfamiliar with, the actual process of finalising a claim for GFD
(excluding childcare grants, as above) both in the 12/13, and 13/14
academic years."

Unfortunately, this material has not been forthcoming. I would be grateful if your review would explore the reasons why this is the case.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your email dated 11/11/2014.

I can advise that upon reviewing the documents provided by our GFD Team,
these did not fall within the scope of your clarified request, for training
material covering the GFD finalisation process, as they did not detail the
finalisation process itself. Upon further enquiries, we have now received
documents covering the finalisation process only.

We had not previously advised that the documents being released at the time
"may not be" every single document falling within the scope of your
request, and this was not a definite confirmation of there being other
documents in existence as your email states.

The technical answer to your original request was that it fell to be
refused under the appropriate costs limit exemption, however as we had
located some documents falling within the scope of your request, it was
decided as a matter of good customer service to issue these documents,
although we could not confirm for certain if there were any other documents
that fell within scope.

As your request was clarified, technically this constitutes a new request
for information, subject to a new deadline. However, I can advise that we
are currently awaiting approval of the release of these documents, which I
hope to receive within the next few days.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Shaun Lewis anodiad ()

For the benefit of the person following this request, and other interested parties:

It appears that the SLC are refusing to conduct an internal review on the basis that by telling them I was satisfied that part c had been answered, and clarifying exactly what I meant by 'training materials', I had technically made a new request.

I disagree, and I phoned the ICO helpline to ask for advice. After reading my original request and my clarification to them, I was told there is a good chance the ICO would similarity disagree, I was advised that since their reply today appears to be tantamount to a refusal to conduct an internal review, I can make a complaint directly to the ICO, which I have done this afternoon.

It is important to note that, even if the the SLC are right, the deadline for this 'new' request will expire on Monday, accordingly to my calculations. If past experience is anything to go by, we will probably see some new documentation appear at the last minute on the 17th. If it will be what I have asked for remains to be seen.

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

2 Atodiad

Dear Mr Lewis

Further to my previous email, please find attached copies of the GFD
Finalisation Manuals for academic years 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Our GFD Team have confirmed that these documents, together with the
previous information you have received, should meet the requirements of
your request.

Please note that Please note that the names of members of staff who have
written or reviewed either document is considered to constitute the
personal data of those individuals. Section 40(2) of the FOIA, which
provides for personal data, such as names, to be exempt from disclosure
where its release would contravene any of the data protection principles.
This is an absolute exemption and requires no personal interest
consideration. The members of staff who have written or reviewed training
material are non-customer facing members of staff, who would not expect
their names to be released into the public domain. It is therefore
considered unfair to those individuals to disclose their names. The names
are therefore considered to be exempt from disclosure under section 40(2)
of the FOIA, and have been redacted accordingly. The name, address and
customer reference number on page 36 of the 2013/14 manual have also been
redacted under the same exemption.

We apologise for the time it has taken to provide this information. As
explained previously, your original request was considered to be
wide-ranging, and we provided what information/documentation we had located
within the appropriate timescales. Upon receiving further clarification as
to your specific requirements, further enquiries were made. This has
resulted in a number of documents being located, and considered to
determine whether or not they fall within the scope of your request.

We would be grateful if you could confirm if these are sufficient for your
requirements, and if you wish to proceed with your request for an internal
review.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

(See attached file: Finalisation Training Manual 201213 AY_Redacted.pdf)
(See attached file: Finalisation Training Manual 201314 AY_Redacted.pdf)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Chapman,

Thank you for your email of 13th of November.

I can confirm that I consider the documents you provided to satisfy my request.

I had, however, prior to the receipt of these documents, already made a complaint to the ICO about your handling of this request, after a discussion with the ICO helpline as to whether this would be appropriate. I have asked them to investigate whether your initial email constituted a proper refusal notice, and particularly, if your comments that "in particular question (c) is wide-ranging by itself" satisfied section 17(5) of the FOIA. I disagree that this term is in general use to mean you are refusing a request under the Section 12 costs limits exemption, and wonder if someone less familiar with the legislation would have understood why you were not fully complying with this particular request. I also asked them to investigate if it was appropriate to consider my explanation as to what exactly training materials are "[documents] that would be referred to by an employee or agent of the Student Loans Company who is new to the role, or otherwise unfamiliar with, the actual process of finalising a claim", which I consider to be the usual meaning of the term, constituted a new request.

Since you have indicated that these are common practises in replying to requests within your organisation, I think it best if the ICO continue to investigate my complaint, as your eventual compliance has not changed the contents of your initial reply. I am sure they will write to you in due course. As such, I will no longer require you to conduct an internal review.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

Gadawodd Shaun Lewis anodiad ()

Again, for the benefit of the person following my request, the ICO sent me a letter today about my complaint, which reminded me I needed to reply to the SLC.

The ICO also asked me if I also wanted them to investigate whether the reliance on exemption under section 40(2) was appropriate for the names of the staff members. Perhaps this is indicative of another problem with the handling of the request, but I've told them I am unconcerned with this.

Dear FOI Publication Scheme,

It is my understanding that ICO have now concluded their investigation into my complaint.

I wanted to clarify if you had received notification of this, and what actions the SLC had taken, or will be taking, in response to improve its practises in relation to information rights. I believe this will be useful in reassuring me, the others following this request on the What Do they Know website, and those who may find it in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your email dated 02/01/2015.

I can confirm that we have received a preliminary decision from the ICO
relating to the handling of your FOI request, have discussed your complaint
with the ICO Case Officer assigned to your complaint, and provided our
response to the issues raised. We are currently awaiting a final decision
from the ICO before we make any changes to our current processes and
practices for dealing with FOI requests.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that upon receipt of
the ICO's final decision, we will be implementing changes to our
departmental processes for handling FOI requests, with a view to ensuring
that SLC adheres to best practice in relation to information rights.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman
Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Chapman,

Thank you for you reply. I had been told that the ICO had not been persuaded to change anything in its initial preliminary decision as a result of your submissions. I apologise if my email was pre-emptive, and that news has been yet to reach you.

If the SLC is waiting for a final decision before implementing any changes, I would be grateful if you could let me know what changes will be made once that decision has been taken.

I look forward to hearing from you again soon,

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

Dear FOI Publication Scheme,

I write with regards to your email of 5 January 2015, which I replied to on the 7th, regarding the decision of the ICO about your handling of my subject access request.

At the time, you wrote that the decision was only preliminary, and you would not be making any changes or process improvements until that decision was finalized.

Since that decision has now been finalized for 9 months, I trust you have had the opportunity to review that decision and implement those improvements. Are you now in a position to advise me of what changes the SLC have made since that decision?

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Lewis

FOI Publication Scheme, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your email dated 25/09/2015.

I can confirm that following receipt of the ICO's final decision dated 7th
January 2015 (relating to your freedom of information request and not any
subject access request) a number of changes have been made to departmental
processes. These include:
- ensuring that staff who handle FOI requests make it clear if any
follow-up communications are to be treated as a new request for information
and
- where requests are considered to be wide-ranging and the costs
limit exemption considered applicable, that a formal response is issued as
early as possible

These changes are in the process of being formally documented in our
departmental processes as part of a wider review of all FOI policies and
procedures.

I trust the above is sufficient, however please do not hesitate to contact
me should you require any further information.

Yours sincerely

Legal Executive
Student Loans Company Limited
100 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7JD

Tel: 0141 243 3062 (ext 33062)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Shaun Lewis anodiad ()

A successful request, but did require a complaint to the ICO, eventually.

We are promised changes to the processing of FOIA requests in future - lets hope this is reflecting the handling of requests going forward.