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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA). We contacted them after the publication of the Freedom of Information statistics for central government bodies in 2022. They receive a relatively high volume of requests and we were interested to see how they maintain a high level of compliance.

ICO comment: what this case study means

If your organisation has the technical resources, you could develop your own database solution to handle your information request workload. Transparency and visibility are important. Keep senior staff engaged in the detail of compliance and share accountability within the organisation. If your workload increases, consider whether changing your processes will help. When UKSA experienced a steep increase in requests in 2021, they amended internal deadlines to give their team an extra three working days. This helped UKSA maintain timeliness despite an increasing caseload.

Casework management through PowerApps

UKSA manage requests through PowerApps (Microsoft). It operates using a workflow system. It logs requests, allowing UKSA to assign them to the relevant business areas and sends an automatic acknowledgement to the requester. Staff can download outcome and exemption data from the application and analysed to produce quarterly and annual statistics.

The application calculates an internal deadline of 14 working days for the business areas to return FOIs to the FOI team. This allows the team six days to check that responses are compliant and provide advice on any necessary amendments. They track compliance with this internal deadline and chase to avoid any late responses.

Assigning responsibility for requests

Each request is usually assigned to the deputy director (DD) responsible for the topic of the FOI request. Under each DD there is a delegate, who is the person responsible for overseeing FOIs in that area of UKSA.

UKSA’s casework system sends an automated notification to the DD, their assistant and the delegate. This informs them that a request has arrived and prompts them to assign an Action Officer (AO).

The AO collates a response, in collaboration with other relevant colleagues and business areas. The DD is notified when the response is ready for review. They then sign off or reject the response.


All UKSA staff are informed how to identify an FOI request through annual training sessions. Business areas receive additional training.

Numerous members of the team have FOI qualifications from external training organisations. They attend regular external training courses to keep up to date with developments in the FOI space (such as ICO decision notices and case law updates). New starters on the team are given an informal two-week training programme with a qualified FOI practitioner to go over the basics of FOI law and all the relevant exemptions. This is supplemented with ICO materials.

Reporting to leadership

FOI figures and trends are reported to the senior leadership team. The FOI team handle data protection requests and also oversee the ONS complaints function. They also work very closely with the Parliamentary team, who are responsible for official correspondence and Parliamentary questions. Grouping these functions under one team provides oversight of the topics and information the public are interested in, as well as building a detailed understanding of emerging issues or trends. This helps the organisation improve processes, systems, transparency and responsiveness.

UKSA’s recommendations for other public authorities

UKSA recommend that other organisations are ambitious with creating supportive technological structures to assist with compliance. They also recommend implementing combined responsibility for FOI requests, with ultimate responsibility for the response lying with the business areas.