Called to Account - The impact of the Freedom of Information Act

The UK Freedom of Information Act has been used extensively by voluntary and community organisations in the first six months of its life. This research indicates that since January 2005 when the Act came into force, more than 18,000 voluntary and community organisations made at least one request for information from public bodies. The research also points to the Act becoming a widely used campaigning tool, with 50,000 organisations having plans to make future requests under the Act. Voluntary organisations are using the Act to find out how public bodies arrive at decisions, and whose voices are listened to in the decision-making process – does government take the views of voluntary organisations into account and is too much weight given to companies? Campaigning is a key area of work for the voluntary and community sector and the Freedom of Information Act can be a valuable tool in campaigning. This research shows that where organisations are aware of the Act they have made use of it in their work and think it is a powerful tool to promote accountability and change. But the research also shows that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the Act and its potential. The Freedom of Information Act will also have a major impact on how business interacts with government – the research shows upwards of 20,000 voluntary organisations have plans to make requests about this. Not only will the legislation bring a new accountability to the way in which companies lobby government, it may also reveal a few skeletons in the closet.

Gitsham, M. & Gribben, C. (2005) Called to Account - The impact of the Freedom of Information Act

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