Debate on Freedom of Information Act

We asked:- Do you think the Freedom of Information Act
will result in a mountain of paper work? Would that be a price
worth paying?

Here are some of the comments we received:-

“The Freedom of Information Act shouldn’t produce a
mountain of paperwork for social services providers as many of them
are currently considering implementing electronic document records
management (EDRM) systems to help them become paperless.

The problem is that many organisations have taken steps to get
ready for e-government by introducing EDRM and workflow systems,
but still have the vast majority of their information in physical
storage. This reduces the effectiveness of the implementation as
users only have access to a small percentage of citizens’
case history, making it even harder for officers to find
peoples’ records.

There is, of course, no point in implementing an EDRM system if
all historical records are still stored in paper files. But
scanning the backlog – usually millions of paper documents
– is a time consuming exercise. By outsourcing this task to a
specialist with more expertise, a faster, higher quality
turn-around can be achieved. An outsourcing company providing a
bureau service will help you consider both how many records you
should back-scan and what you need to do for it to be

As well as dealing with the Freedom of Information Act, social
services providers only have until October 2005 to eliminate
paper-based case files and replace them with electronic records to
comply with the Electronic Social Care Record (ESCR) regulations. 
As time draws on, it is clear FOI and ESCR will go hand-in-hand,
but with ESCR just around the corner, agencies should be thinking
about EDRM now, rather than in six months time.”

Greg Johns
Managing Director, Square3

“For many years we have had a contract for residential care
with our local three-star authority. As part of the monitoring
process, officers of the council have demanded to inspect staff and
residents’ files even when this risked breaching the Data
Protection Act. No consideration was ever given to the extra
administration costs to charities and other voluntary groups in
complying with the increasing burden of compliance. A lot of it
duplicated the requirements of the NCSC/CSCI official inspections
and visits were scheduled irrespective whether the official
regulator gave high approval ratings to the home. Occasionally, I
had to re-title policies so that they complied with the council’s
compliance team and the National Minimum Standards. The contents
stayed the same, only the title mattered.
There I regret to say, that local and central government will get
to see what it is like in the non-statutory sector; when you are on
the receiving end of a statutory payment, you have to dance to
whatever tune your “partners” dictate. It is rarely the staff at
the sharp-end (i.e. care managers/social workers) who are the
problem, but their contracts and corporate management departments
that cause the problem, mainly because they forget that being
publicly funded means they should be publicly accountable.
Frequently they are not.
So three cheers for the FOIA. Maybe now we will have more openness
from the bureaucrats in local government and perhaps even a state
of equal partnership may one day exist.”


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.