Young people don’t know their FOI rights

Young people

Survey shows young people believe they won't be taken seriously if they ask a public body for information

28th June 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Only 25% of secondary school pupils in Scotland know they have freedom of information (FOI) rights, compared to 85% FOI awareness among adults.         

Under FOI anyone has the right to request and receive information from public bodies, with bodies required to respond to requests for information promptly, and within 20 working days.

The research, commissioned by the Scottish Information Commissioner and carried out by Ipsos MORI, surveyed more than 1,700 Scottish secondary school pupils.

It also found that only 28% of young people were confident they would receive a response if they made a request for information and 38% of young people felt that public bodies were more likely to respond to a request from an adult than a young person.

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry, who enforces FOI law, said: “The findings of this research are concerning. Not only do young people have a significantly lower awareness of FOI, they are also not confident that their requests would be taken seriously by public bodies.

“FOI is open to everyone, and it’s important that young people know this. They have the same rights as anyone else to access information about public services and decision-making on the issues that affect them; whether it be related to education, health care, recreational facilities, public safety or any other issue.”

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) recently used FOI as part of their ongoing campaign against the use of anti-loitering mosquito devices in Scotland. These emit high-pitched sounds at a frequency only young people can hear, to discourage them from gathering in public spaces. 

Kit McCarthy MSYP (North East Fife) said: “Freedom of information was an invaluable tool for us when challenging mosquito devices. Without it, we would never have realised the sheer scale of the issue. It is has led to superb results, such as ScotRail’s commitment not to use these devices at any of its stations across Scotland.

“For the Scottish Youth Parliament, freedom of information is important for two reasons. It is incredibly easy to use: I made close to 40 requests to Scottish councils and transport authorities for the purpose of the campaign.”

"Secondly, it is blind to age or personal experience. A 14-year-old Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament has the same right to information as anyone else, and that is vital for our campaigns, and for transparency generally.”