Disabled children and families deserve access to information

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Moves to extend the time special schools have to respond to Freedom of Information requests would erode the rights of disabled Scots, say campaigners.

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28th April 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Plans to give special schools more time to respond to freedom of information (FoI) requests undermines the rights of disabled children and their families, campaigners have said.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS) said the move would create a two-tier freedom of information system and would erode the principle of the legal rights of Scots to access public information.

Carol Ewart

Carol Ewart

To increase the timescales for some schools will cause confusion about the law and have a disproportionate impact on the right of disabled children and their families

The body is responding to a Scottish Government consultation that proposes these grant aided and independent special schools are given longer to respond to FoI requests, increasing times from 20 to 60 working days.

Carole Ewart, convener of the CFoIS, said the move would be a breach of universal rights of disabled children and families.

“To increase the timescales for some schools will cause confusion about the law and have a disproportionate impact on the right of disabled children and their families," she said.

“We are also alarmed that breaching the principle of universal application will tempt other potential providers – like housing associations, private companies or the third sector – to demand special treatment if and when they are covered.”

The campaign claims the law works well in its current form and a change is not necessary.

Ewart added: “These proposals are excessive and disproportionate, extending the time so much that any information would be far less use to the requester, and it delays possible appeals to the Scottish Information Commissioner.”

As part of its Holyrood election campaign, CFoIS is also calling for arms-length organisations linked to public bodies such as local leisure trusts funded by councils to be subject to FoI laws.

Ewart said: “Freedom of Information is widely known and backed by the Scottish public. 91% think it is important and 82% agree that it isn’t a waste of money. It is an enforceable right that should be maintained.”