When public authorities reply to FOI requests they often use a template in their answers. FOI responses, where information is being withheld, will often show the FOI exemption used and then explain why that exemption has been applied. This can save time and make sure the response is being presented in a clear and understandable way.
People making FOI requests, to an extent, can use a template in a similar way. Having a formulaic template that is used for FOI requests can help to provide consistency when multiple requests are being made.
By making it as easy as possible for an authority to identify an FOI request will reduce the potential for initial delays. It is possible to show them you know your rights, without being patronising. A good FOI request may clearly state what the information requested is, a date range, the department of the authority that may hold the information, and the format the information is to be received in.
The following template for a request may be a useful starting point – it only covers some of the very basics for making a FOI request. Since it was first published it has been adapted based on comments below this article. Those using an FOI template should always consider that someone will be receiving and answering their FOI request at the other end.
While the Freedom of Information Act is a process grounded in legal measures, people are a huge part of the Act. Requesters may benefit from talking to FOI staff at public authorities and learning from their experiences. Many people answering FOI requests are keen to see more information being published.
All requests should be tailored to the authority and the particular information.
Hello [Authority name]
I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request the following information from [authority name/department]. Please may you provide me with:
[Insert information that is being asked for]
Please provide the information in the form [insert form to be received in]
If it is not possible to provide the information requested due to the information exceeding the cost of compliance limits identified in Section 12, please provide advice and assistance, under the Section 16 obligations of the Act, as to how I can refine my request.
If you can identify any ways that my request could be refined I would be grateful for any further advice and assistance.
If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone and I will be very happy to clarify what I am asking for and discuss the request, my details are outlined below.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.
[Name and email signature with contact details]
Updated January 23, 2021: This article has been updated since it was first published