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Interesting decision from the Information Rights Tribunal

(22 Posts)
inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 17:04:39

I thought this was quite an interesting decision from the Information Rights Tribunal.

Briefly, parent "bombards" (Tribunal's word) the LA with requests for info regarding SEN. She has complaints ongoing with LA, LGO and SofS.

Tribunal held: no evidence this imposed a particularly onerous burden as info should have been available under Regulations and was info public had a right to know; no evidence council staff were 'harrassed'; the appellant was acting for sincere purposes.

Good on this parent for fighting this to the Tribunal level.

buss Mon 30-Sep-13 17:07:27

so parent asked for info from FOI and LA refused it? Is that right?

<sorry my brain is asleep after a day at work>

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 17:09:03

Yes. Parent asks under FOIA. LA refuses it and says she is 'vexatious' under the s 14 FOIA.

She takes it to Information Commissioner. Commissioner agrees.

She takes it to Tribunal.

Tribunal overrules Commissioner.

A small but rare victory!

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 17:09:44

Should say Commissioner agrees she is vexatious. So she takes it to Tribunal

buss Mon 30-Sep-13 17:15:50

wow - well done that parent!

I didn't know they could refuse.shock
I had been seriously considering getting ds's info from mainstream...they could refuse if they don't want me to see it then?

buss Mon 30-Sep-13 17:16:23

who is the commissioner? are they part of the LA?

TOWIELA Mon 30-Sep-13 17:41:54

Wow - excellent. Well done her. More and more parents should stand up to the nonsense that goes on with SEN

TOWIELA Mon 30-Sep-13 17:55:32

IE - do you know why it was published on the internet being that SEN Tribunal First Tier decisions don't get published?

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 18:13:21

Ok - I might be confusing peeps here:

1. Buss - this concerns the Freedom of Information Act and NOT the Data Protection Act. The DPA covers your own personal information, the FOIA covers information held by public bodies but not personal info e.g. policies, number of statements issued, block contracts etc etc

2. The Commissioner is the Information Commissioner. The ICO. You can complain to the ICO about a breach of the DPA or the FOIA and they will investigate - sometimes, and not usually that well.

3. TOWIE - the Information Rights Tribunal (which deals ONLY with FOIA issues) publishes all its rulings. I suspect there is some argument about identifiable personal info regarding SEN but probably just part of the general lack of transparency etc

hoxtonbabe Mon 30-Sep-13 19:06:46

How do you find this stuff IE?

And yes, we should start standing up to this nonsense more

TOWIELA Mon 30-Sep-13 19:11:13

Thanks IE. Ah I wondered if that was the case because the parents/children of SEN Tribunals might be too easily identifiable. But yes, you are right, it does show up general lack of transparency.

Interesting to see in the Judge's decision that although the mum's requests were "obsessive", her conduct couldn't be said to be harassing or distressing the staff [poor lambs]. A bit of common sense from a judge - realising that most SEN parents are obsessive about their children. Mind you, if the LA staff can't cope with upset parents and find it too stressful, perhaps they should either find another job or do their current job properly.

WetAugust Mon 30-Sep-13 19:39:42

Mmmm. Precedent grin

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 20:29:35

Precisely the argument my lawyer used with the LGO about my vexatious determination. Sadly the LGO basically say as along as the council has a policy, and follow it, we don't care what they do.

And yet, they didn't follow their policy. hmm

Obviously that is different to the Information tribunal and the FOIA but the contrast in approach is interesting.

Maybe someone on the panel has a kid with SEN and knows the score!

As for how I cam across it, 'twas as part of a research project.

uggerthebugger Mon 30-Sep-13 20:33:50

Just what I was thinking, Wet. This couldn't have come at a better time for me - my LA have bluntly hinted that any further FOIs from me on SEN issues will lead to them deploying the 'vexatious' label - that's after just 3 spread over 6 weeks...

IE cheers for this, you rock! thanks BTW, what sort of information makes the grade under the Special Educational Needs (Provision of Information by Local Authorities) (England) Regulations 2001?

buss Mon 30-Sep-13 20:33:59

oh I get it now - sorry!
can they refuse a FOI then - or will they just 'lose' stuff?

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 21:07:02

First Tier Tribunal aren't precedent sadly but you can use the case to demonstrate how it has been considered.

As for the Regulations, I haven't has a chance to look at them and, interestingly, the Tribunal just assumed it was right they applied as no one had contradicted the appellant's comments about them.

WetAugust Mon 30-Sep-13 21:16:57

I'm starting to think that branding a complainant as 'vexatious' to close down any discussion is a strategy that is becoming quite widespread.

angry

WetAugust Mon 30-Sep-13 21:19:02

That's the problem isn't it - that very few words actually have a legal definition.

One of my favourite words has been legally defined - BOLLOCKS!

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 30-Sep-13 21:23:49

If they don't have a legal definition, or are not defined in the statute, the law says you must apply the ordinary English of the word. So if your council has a vexatious policy and doesn't explain it, look up vexatious in the dictionary.

Congratulations to that parent and that Judge!

uggerthebugger Mon 30-Sep-13 22:18:08

Wet, another well worn tactic they use is invoking the 18 hour rule. This allows a school or local government body to refuse to provide information if it would take more than 18 working hours to find, assemble, clear and send it.

The trouble is, there's no particular guidance given as to how efficient or effective a local government officer is expected to be during those notional 18 hours. Which effectively makes the 18 hour rule a golden chance for an LA to dodge its obligations by joyfully demonstrating just how incompetent its staff actually are.

My local LA claimed that it couldn't provide anonymised attainment data on a particular slice of its SEN cohort. Not on the grounds that kids might be identifiable, but because it would take over 18 hours to process the request.

The data could be readily obtained from RAISEOnline and the DFE's SEN census in a matter of minutes. If the LA was doing its fucking job, then it would have already collated the data, analysed it, and overhauled its service to improve outcomes. But even though a pair of averagely bright orang-utangs could have completed the task within half a working week, the LA's SEN service apparently couldn't. And that, at present, seems to be a justifiable defence.

WetAugust Mon 30-Sep-13 22:22:39

We always gave FOIs top priority when I was at work.

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