How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request

1. Overview

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right to request recorded information held by the Department for the Economy.

If you ask for environmental information, your request will be handled under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs).

Personal information

There is a different way to make a request if you want information that we may hold about you. We may hold information about you if, for example, you used a service we provide. 

2. How to make an FOI request

How to access information

Please contact us by email at foi@economy-ni.gov.uk or write to us at:

Information Management Unit
Department for the Economy
Netherleigh
Massey Avenue
Belfast
BT4 2JP

If you cannot make your request in writing because of a disability, contact us by telephoning 028 9052 9617 and we will assist you in making your request another way - for example over the phone.

You can ask for environmental information in writing, in person or by phone.

Before you make a request

You might not need to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request as we already make a lot of information routinely available. Before you consider making a request please try:

  • searching our website for the information
  • checking our Publication Scheme and the Publications area, which details the categories of information made available by the Department on an ongoing basis.

What to include

You should give: your name; a contact postal or email address; and, 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; and large print.

Internal FOI/EIR policy

This article outlines the process for staff to follow on receipt of a request for information:

When you will get a response

We will acknowledge receipt of your request and tell you the date by which you should receive a response. We should send you the information within 20 working days of receiving your request.

When your information will be shared

We may need to consult third parties in order to reach a decision on disclosure, particularly if they provided the information requested to us in the first place. Consultation may take place with other public authorities, private organisations or individuals. Where there are a large number of third parties, the Department may contact a representative body or sample instead to help inform our decision. It is important for us to consider the views of those who provide us with information on how releasing the information is likely to affect them. Even if they object, we may still release the information to you if we conclude that it is in the public interest to do so.

If you’ve sent an FOI request to several government departments, we may share your request between us. This is to help deal with your enquiry more effectively.

Only necessary information will be shared and information will not be used for any other purpose.

There are occasions where we receive a request for information but on the basis of not holding the information and being aware of another Public Authority which does, we may contact you with a view to seeking your permission to transfer your request.

Costs

Most requests are free but you might be asked to pay a small amount for photocopies or postage. We will tell you if you have to pay anything.

Check the copyright status of information you receive if you plan to reproduce it.

FOI/EIR performance statistics

Management information on the department’s performance in relation to FOI/EIR requests for information received is available:

3. If your request is turned down

Some sensitive information is not available to members of the public. If this applies, we must tell you why we cannot give you some or all of the information you requested.

We might ask you to be more specific so we can provide just the information you need.

We can also refuse your Freedom of Information (FOI) request if getting information will cost more than £600 and can refuse your request for environmental information, if we think the cost of getting the information is too high.

Reviews and complaints

If we do not provide you with the information you requested and you disagree with our explanation why, you should first ask us to review our decision.  To request an internal review send an email or letter within 40 working days, to foi@economy-ni.gov.uk. We need you to tell us why you are requesting an internal review. We are also happy to review any response issued in relation to your DPA rights – please contact DPO@economy-ni.gov.uk if you wish us to do so.

If a request for an internal review refers to FOI legislation we will reply to you within 20 working days if possible. If a request for an internal review refers to EIR legislation we will reply to you within 40 working days. If a request for a review refers to data protection / personal data, we will aim to respond within one calendar month.

If you’re not satisfied with our response, you can complain or appeal to the Information Commissioner - make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Commissioner will normally expect an internal review to have been carried out prior to appeal.

4. Data Protection Act 2018

The Data Protection Act 2018 establishes a framework of rights and duties which are designed to safeguard personal data.  

The Act applies to a particular activity – processing personal data – rather than to particular organisations or people. As the Department for the Economy processes personal data, we must comply with the Act.

The Act gives a right of access to individuals to a copy of their personal data.  This right, commonly referred to as subject access, is most often used by individuals who want to see a copy of the information an organisation holds about them. Under the right of subject access, an individual is entitled only to their own personal data.

Should you wish to access information held about you contact us at DPO@economy-ni.gov.uk  

Please state your name, address, telephone number and specific details of the information you require.

DfE Data Protection Policy

The Department for the Economy  is fully committed to complying with the Data Protection Act 2018 and has published a Data Protection Policy:

FOI, EIR and SARs Privacy Notice

A privacy notice outlining how personal data will be handled by the Department of the Economy when processing requests for information:

Departmental Board Minutes

The Department publishes the minutes of Departmental Board Meetings as soon as possible after they have been agreed by the Board. 

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