Solved: The biggest public sector FOIA and Correspondence challenges
We break down the 4 main issues and give you tangible solutions
We all know how onerous it is to manage your FOIA (Freedom of information) correspondence backlog. This is one of the biggest challenges for our customers, and for the public sector in particular. There are several aspects to this which can present challenges:-
- The volume of requests
- The difficulty (or cost) of answering a request
- Understanding if there are individuals or organisations of importance, or trends within them. For example, is there one person who often raises issues? Or is the person working for a media organisation? Is it a member of the public or another person?
Circulating responses to the public
The volume of requests will of course have an impact on how big an issue this is in your organisation, and how you tackle the volume.
However, some requests are more difficult to answer than others, which means each request has a different cost. Here are some of the issues you may consider to improve the efficiency of your existing process:-
- Do you need a new software solution, or can it be handled informally?
- If you handle it informally, how can you be sure that all requests have been responded to within the deadline?
- How do you identify those costs, and how do you determine whether the cost is lower than the FOIA threshold?
- If it is above the threshold, do you have a standard approach to letting the customer know?
- Can you spot trends in the requests?
- How would you know if one person, or one organisation, was bombarding you with questions?
- If someone has already asked a question in the past, how would you find that out?
- Is there a quick way to send a previous response to a new request, to save the research and time costs of creating a new reply?
Depending on volume, you’ll need to choose a software solution which can support your entire workflow. This could include the date stamp when the correspondence arrived, and whether it arrived electronically, by letter or by phone.
Each stage in the process can then be logged and evidenced in the case of an appeal later on. The same solution could also incorporate advanced reporting and querying of the history.
You can use software like the InPhase Correspondence and FOIA App to crunch the data and output a response or slim report which you can then post out to the person who made the request. Now that you have the request answered, you can reproduce the same response whenever it is asked again by someone else.
The app can also store your letter templates and assist with streamlining the workflow. If you have a sequence of people who need to get involved in particular types of request, you can produce pages for them that help them to manage their workload.
Email notifications can be triggered automatically when action is needed. The InPhase Correspondence and FOIA App has actually helped a number of OPCC customers, Fire Brigades, Local Authorities, Government Sector and NHS organisations manage their correspondence and FOIA commitments, reducing expense of answering and organising your responses.
So when you’re looking to streamline your FOIA and correspondence process, look for software that can deal with volume using workflows and can keep you up to date with actions.