Update for Scottish public authorities from the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner

6 APRIL 2020

Changes to FOI duties for Scottish Public Authorities:

Last week the Scottish Parliament passed the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. It makes a number of temporary amendments to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

The new Act comes into effect on Tuesday 7 April 2020.The key changes it makes are summarised on our website, and we will be publishing detailed guidance shortly.

Please note that:

  • While the maximum timescales within which public authorities must respond to requests for information and review will be extended from 20 to 60 working days, authorities will still be required to respond promptly to requests they receive.
  • The changes apply only to FOISA – they do not apply to requests for environmental information which fall under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
  • The changes the Act implements are not retrospective.  

During the time that the temporary amendments apply, it will continue to be important for authorities to keep records of their request handling, and reasons for their FOI decisions. This will be both for the purposes of both statistics collection and in case of reviews and appeals to the Commissioner.

Premises closure extended

The premises of the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner will be closed for a further 4 weeks as a result of the impact of coronavirus Covid-19 – until at least 1 May. We will review the premises closure at the end of April in light of government guidance at that time. 

We currently have a small team working from home responding to urgent enquiries and undertaking essential activities. These staff are working remotely, however, so capacity and access to our usual systems is significantly limited. For detail on changes to our services or to contact us with urgent queries, please see: www.itspublicknowledge.info/contact

Regarding live investigations

The Commissioner’s office currently has around 200 live investigations, though access to our case management system is significantly restricted at present. If your authority has been asked to provide us with information or submissions, but is unable to do so because of the impact of Covid-19, let us know by contacting us at enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info.

Similarly, if the Commissioner has issued a decision requiring your authority to take action, but you are unable to comply because of the impact of Covid-19, please contact us at enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info

We will send a further update once detailed guidance on the changes brought about by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 is available on our website. If you have any urgent queries in the meantime, please contact us at enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info.

Scottish Information Commissioner
Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road
St Andrews, KY16 9DS
Email: enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info
Web: www.itspublicknowledge.info
Twitter: @FOIScotland

Care Inspectorate – Update 6 April 2020

Anticipatory Care Planning for COVID-19

Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) has developed a new template document to specifically support Anticipatory Care Planning (ACP) conversations in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.  HIS worked with the Scottish Government and national stakeholders to develop this new national resource.

The COVID-19 ACP template is for use by health and social care staff to support individuals who would benefit from ACP. It is not designed for sole use by individuals and their families without guidance.

Please visit https://ihub.scot/acp-covid-19 to download the template and find additional information relating to ACP support.

Updated guidance for social or community care and residential settings

Health Protection Scotland has updated its guidance for social or community care and residential settings to include information about personal protective equipment (PPE).

This can be downloaded from their website here 

Remember to complete the Scottish Government’s childcare monitoring return

If you have not already completed the Scottish Government’s childcare monitoring return today, please use the link below to complete this.

Private and third-sector all-day childcare services including nurseries, out of school care and childminders should complete the survey.  Information about local authority settings will be gathered on a separately.  

You can access the survey here..

This information is collated by Scottish Government and, alongside the local authority data, will be used to monitor the level of provision during the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  

It is acknowledged that many settings have now closed.  If your setting is closed, please submit the survey once.  If your setting becomes operational please complete this on a daily basis before 15:00.  Your continued support with this is appreciated.

Find out more about our work at: www.careinspectorate.com

Contact us 

Support for people who are shielding but have no local support network

East Lothian Council is offering support to people who are shielding and do not have a support network around them to help with shopping or collection of prescriptions. In these circumstances, they can help, particularly with food supplies, household essentials and medicine. People requiring support should contact customerservices@eastlothian.gov.uk or 01875 824300 between 10am and 3pm to access this service.

CHANGES service update

Due to the Government guidelines in relation to Covid 19 we are unable to run any of our face to face groups, courses and one to one sessions.  We are working to transfer where feasible,  our Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions online, together with any courses that can be provided over the internet.  We will continue to update once these changes have been put in place.

The CHANGES office is closed but a member of staff will answer diverted phone calls, Mon-Fri 10am – 2pm.  There is not the facility to leave messages but if the line is busy, please try again and your call will be answered.  Alternatively, please email info@changeschp.org.uk if you have an enquiry.

Anyone needing support in a crisis can book a telephone appointment through the First Response Service.  Appointments are available morning or afternoon, Mon to Fri.  To book an appointment call/text 07966 526 452 (phone line open Mon-Fri 10am -2pm).  First Response appointments can also be arranged by calling the CHANGES office number – 0131 653 3977, Mon – Fri, 10am – 2pm.

Anyone needing to have a chat about the services and support that CHANGES provides can contact on 0131 653 3977, Mon – Fri, 10am – 2pm or again email info@changeschp.org.uk.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or queries regarding the above.  We will continue to send updates as the service transitions.

Best wishes, Caitlin

Caitlin Rodgers
CHANGES Community Health Project

AbilityNet Live! – Staying in touch: Using technology to chat with family and friends – Tuesday at 1pm

This FREE webinar will offer information and support on how you can stay connected with family and friends using technology during a time of social isolation – and to learn skills for when it is no longer necessary. 

  • Date and time: 7 April 2020: 1pm-2pm
  • Location: Online – the webinar is delivered via the Zoom platform
  • Price: free

Register Now

About the webinar

When will the webinar take place?

Our webinar is FREE to join and will take place jointly with East Sussex-based charity Care for the Carers on 7 April 2020 13:00pm to 14:00pm BST.

What will the webinar cover?

In this webinar, we’ll introduce you to different ways you can communicate using technology. We’ll explore the options you have with devices that you may own already, and showcase specific communication devices, which may be less familiar.

In both cases, we will be mindful that there is a range of skillsets. 

During the webinar, we will:

  1. Inform you how you can connect at a distance via technology
  2. Explain the pros and cons of each option
  3. Signpost you to simple guidance to help you get started
  4. Answer any questions you may have

Who is this webinar for?:


In these unprecedented times, we’re all learning to do things in new ways. Our specific focus is on older and disabled people who need support now more than ever. We’re also mindful of the strain of being separated from someone you normally care for. technology can help you to keep in touch.

The webinar will last 1 hour and includes a brief question and answer session. At the point of registration, you will have the opportunity to submit questions you would like our presenters to respond to on the live webinar. 

Everyone who registers for the webinar will receive access to the recording, including those unable to attend live. We will provide captions for those who are hard of hearing and give access to a transcript afterwards.

Register Now

AbilityNet Live! – Caring at a distance, tech support for older and disabled people

In a time of social isolation, what is the best way to support older and disabled people?

How can technology help them manage the impact of isolation? 

And what is the best way to get them the technology support they need?

AbilityNet has a network of over 300 IT volunteers who provide free IT support to older and disabled people. But as the COVID-19 situation has developed we have had to replace face-to-face volunteering visits with online and telephone-based help and remote support.

This is important for older and disabled people who may be especially vulnerable during this time. We know that carers and family members will be trying to provide whatever help they can and we want to support that effort.

That’s why, under the umbrella ‘AbilityNet Live!’ we’ve joined forces with a range of charities to deliver a series of webinars aimed at reducing loneliness, improving mental health and using technology if you need support with essentials such as shopping while separated from loved ones. 

It brings together all sorts of individuals and organisations, providing a focus for information sharing and top tips. It will also include plenty of time for questions from the audience.

We will be joined by members of Citizens Online and also East Sussex-based charity, Care for the Carers.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me



Chris Grant
Scotland Co-Ordinator
ITCANHELP – Abilitynet
0800 269 545 | 07555 397 391
E: v.scotland@abilitynet.org.uk
W: www.abilitynet.org.uk

Scottish Child Abuse Enquiry update

Despite a pause in public hearings as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Inquiry is continuing its vital investigative work and encouraging survivors to continue to come forward to give evidence. As such, the Inquiry is looking to further extend its visibility and availability to help ensure all available evidence is gathered, and as many people as possible can contribute to the important work of the Inquiry.

SCVO update 3.4.2020

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is committed to support the voluntary sector through the coronavirus pandemic.  We have set up this bulletin to share important information with you including funding announcements.

Help & advice for employees

Citizens Advice Scotland has created a section on their website with lots of useful information for employees who have been impacted by coronavirus, which covers everything from bills to benefits.

Look after your mental wellbeing

It’s always important to look after your mental health, but even more so at times like these when we are all faced with uncertainty and isolation. The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) also has a dedicated web page with resources to help people maintain good mental health during the ongoing pandemic, including blogs, guided meditation and a wellbeing assessment tool.

Funding for organisations

Various funds have been announced recently to help organisations deal with the impact of coronavirus on services:

  • Third Sector Resilience Fund – a £20m emergency fund for charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations which find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Community Response, Recovery & Resilience Fund – the National Emergencies Trust has set up a Coronavirus Appeal to raise funds for local charities and grassroots organisations that can provide vital support – funds for Scottish organisations will be distributed by Foundation Scotland.
  • Creative Scotland – three funding programmes have been launched to help provide further support to sustain the country’s creative community impacted by coronavirus.
  • CAF Coronavirus Emergency Fund – grants of up to £10,000 to help smaller organisations to continue to deliver much needed support. 

Further funding information and links are available on the Coronavirus Third Sector Information Hub funding page.

Scotland Cares volunteer campaign

A new ‘Scotland Cares’ campaign has been launched to encourage people to volunteer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the most important ask for the public remains to stay at home and follow the essential public health guidance, people who are healthy and not at risk can volunteer to provide practical or emotional help to those most in need, via the Ready Scotland website.

Community Assistance Directory 

If you work or volunteer for an organisation in need of support or that is able to offer support to others in response to coronavirus, you can find and give help in this new official website which collates offers and requests of support from across the country. 

Online events & webinars

We have created an events calendar in our guidance & support page in an attempt to capture any online events set up in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Scotland’s third sector.

If your organisation is hosting a webinar, online course or seminar on this topic and would like to promote it, please contact us with details.

What you can do to help

Share your organisations’ experiences and challenges  experience@scvo.org.uk to help inform our work.

Update on devolved benefits from the Scottish Government

Priority will be to deliver Scottish Child Payment

Social Security Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville has updated Parliament on the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on social security services in Scotland.

The majority of Social Security Scotland staff are now working from home to support efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19. The delivery of existing benefits continues with applications being received, processed and payments being made.

On benefits due to be introduced from this year, the Cabinet Secretary advised that, although they were on track to deliver these benefits, plans have had to change as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

The Scottish Government, DWP, local authorities and health and social care practitioners – who are all required to develop and deliver these benefits – are currently focused on the response and recovery from COVID-19. As a result, the introduction of Child Disability Payment and the Scottish Government’s replacement for Personal Independence Payments will be delayed. UK Ministers have agreed that they will continue to deliver disability benefits to Scottish clients over a longer transition period.

Scottish Child Payment, which was due to be introduced from this autumn, will also be delayed. The Scottish Government will focus its resources to deliver this as soon as practicably possible. The aim is to start taking applications by the end of 2020 with payments being made from 2021, subject to sufficient staff being in place.

In her statement, Ms Somerville also outlined the markedly different approach that the Scottish Government plans to take in its delivery of disability benefits. The new decision-making process for this in Scotland will mean no face-to-face assessments and decisions will be informed by the professional judgement of health and social care practitioners – not assessors. The new process will involve the following steps:

  • Social Security Scotland will make decisions using the information provided by applicants and checking this against existing guidance in the first instance
  • where it is not possible to make a decision, applicants will be able to tell Social Security Scotland about the health and social care professionals who already support them. Social Security Scotland will then be able to contact those professionals to collect supporting information
  • when it is the only practical way of collecting the information, a minority of working age clients will be invited to a discussion with a health and social care practitioner. If such a client consultation takes place, it would be arranged to suit the client, and the majority of these consultations are expected to be conducted by phone.

For further detail, please see:

Please share this content with those who you work with who may be impacted by this announcement.

We would encourage everyone to continue claiming all the support that they are entitled to through both Department for Work and Pensions, Social Security Scotland and Local Authorities.

East Lothian Council is supporting local community resilience arrangements to help vulnerable people living in local communities

Just wanted to check that everyone had seen this article on the ELC website

Across the county, volunteers are already providing a significant amount of help and support for neighbours and fellow residents.
Supported by collaboration and co-ordination from our Connected Community Managers in local areas, we are keen to ensure existing community groups are able to continue making a difference in supporting vulnerable people in critical need.
Resilience groups can help in a number of ways – for example collecting shopping, essential supplies and supporting people in emergency need of care.
This could be particularly useful for people who are not able to leave their home, for example if they are self isolating and/or unwell.

What to do if you need help  

Anyone requiring assistance from their local community resilience group can:

  • Email us – customerservices@eastlothian.gov.uk
  • Telephone our public information line on  01875 824 300 between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm, Monday to Friday.

We will then make the appropriate linkages to enable you to be provided with assistance locally.

Volunteer register

Can you help? In collaboration with STRiVE, a volunteer registration service is being established to connect well and willing ‘new’ volunteers with their local resilient community group’s efforts. You can register your interest on the STRiVE website.
Resilient community groups are made up of volunteers, usually attached to community councils, to support their own communities  when there is a major disruption to services – for example during ‘Beast from the East’. Such organised groups provide re-assurance communication and structures to allow a well organised response to be made. The volunteer registration service will help people in communities who are not already connected to a community group/organisation, to provide details of their skills and availability to participate in local volunteering efforts. 


Depute Council Leader Councillor Norman Hampshire said:

“There is a phenomenal amount of volunteering going on across our communities already. Neighbours are helping neighbours and looking after the less able in their communities supported by local resilience groups. We are keen to help support and grow this network, and ensure that community spirit continues to flourish even in these worrying times.”