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Registered Social Landlords ‘responding well’ to FOI

The new report, Registered Social Landlords and FOI: One Year On, is informed by data from a survey of RSLs and subsidiaries and statistics reported by organisations across 2020. 

Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in Scotland are ‘responding well’ to being covered by freedom of information (FOI) laws, according to a new report by the Scottish Information Commissioner. The report, which examines the experience of RSLs over their first year of FOI, found that 97% of organisations responding to the Commissioner’s survey were confident in their ability to respond effectively to FOI requests, while 81% were publishing more information as a result of FOI.

FOI was extended to Scottish RSLs and their subsidiaries in November 2019, requiring those organisations to publish information and respond to information requests in accordance with FOI law. FOI applies to social housing activities of RSLs and subsidiaries, including those relating to the management of social housing, the prevention or alleviation of homelessness and the management of sites for gypsies and travellers.

The new report, Registered Social Landlords and FOI: One Year On, is informed by data from a survey of RSLs and subsidiaries and statistics reported by organisations across 2020. It finds that:

  • 97% of respondents were confident in their ability to respond effectively to FOI requests.
  • 84% of requests for information held by organisations resulted in some or all of the requested information being disclosed.
  • Organisations have not been overwhelmed by FOI, with 57% reporting a ‘small’ impact on staff workload, and 95% reporting 24 requests or fewer during 2020.
  • Most organisations used existing staffing and structures to resource FOI, with only 8% of organisations employing new staff.
  • Some organisations were uncertain about the benefits of FOI, with 27% stating that FOI had brought no benefits to their organisation. A larger proportion, however – 39% - disagreed with this view.
  • 81% of respondents said they were publishing more information as a result of FOI.

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry said: “We know from our work helping organisations prepare for FOI that RSLs took their responsibilities seriously and the sector worked hard to get ready for FOI. As our report shows, this preparation has paid off:  organisations are, on the whole, confident, open and responding well to FOI.

“This will be good news for tenants of the 280,000 homes across Scotland affected by the change, and for their wider communities. It’s no secret that open and transparent organisations are more trusted by service-users, and FOI provides a vital framework to enable transparency, as well as providing an important right of appeal if people are unhappy with a response.”

SFHA Policy Lead Alan Stokes said: "Our members undertook a great deal of preparation prior to the Freedom of Information legislation coming into force, and this is reflected in the results of the Scottish Information Commissioner’s survey of RSLs.  

"This included proactively publishing a wealth of information through websites and putting in place robust processes for responding to requests. Our sector has a proven track record of openness and transparency pre-dating the FOI requirements and the results further demonstrate this commitment.”

The Registered Social Landlords and FOI: One Year On report is available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/research

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