The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations. Anyone can request information – there are no restrictions on your age, nationality or where you live. Your request will be handled under different regulations depending on the kind of information you ask for, such as the:
- Data Protection Act if you ask for information an organisation holds about you
- Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) if you ask for environmental information
An organisation could refuse your request if the information is sensitive or the costs are too high. You might not need to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to get the information you need. An organisation might be able to give you information straight away, including over the phone. You can also check published responses to FOIrequests.
You can request information from some public sector organisations, such as:
- government departments, and other public bodies and committees
- local councils
- schools, colleges and universities
- health trusts, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries
- publicly owned companies
- publicly funded museums
- the police
View the full list of public sector organisations covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Government departments and other bodies often publish responses to freedom of information requests online. You can search through previous responses.
Contact an organisation in writing to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. This can be by:
- online form
You should give:
- your name (not needed if requesting environmental information)
- a contact 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
You should get the information within 20 working days. The organisation will tell you when to expect the information if they need more time. If it seems likely that you’ve sent an FOI request to several government departments, your name and request may be shared between them. This is to help deal with your enquiry more effectively. No other details will be shared and your information won’t be used for any other purpose.