Act Now Launches New Certificate in IG for Health and Social Care

Act Now Certificate in Information Governance

Today ANT launched a new style of certificate course. It’s not a one day course, it’s not a practitioner certificate – it fits in between the two and is intended as a primer in all aspects of information law for the Health and Social Care sector.

The course runs for a period 3 months and uses blended learning. Students can work online and in their own time (either at home or at work) by submitting written assignments and doing online tests. There is no final exam. The course uses continuous assessment to determine the award.

There are 3 teaching days which are each followed by an online knowledge check and an assignment. Subjects covered include Data Protection (GDPR), Freedom of Information, Records Management, Cyber Security, Incident Management, Training in IG and demonstrating compliance. A detailed course structure is available on our website.

The course was developed after consultation with Blackpool Victoria Hospital and a well known NHS expert and consultant, Paul Couldrey, who will be delivering the training. Victoria Hospital have made a significant contribution to the syllabus from a user perspective.

Paul is seen as an NHS leader in Information Governance compliance.  He is the former Head of IG for NHS Central Midlands Commissioning Support Unit (CMCSU), which supports over 10 CCG and overseas health authorities to comply with legislation. He is qualified in information law at Masters level, and has spoken at numerous national conferences about information governance.  He was also the Black Country contributor to the Caldicott Review published in June 2013.

We expect demand for this course to be high. IG in the health sector places a heavy workload on IG teams. Newcomers in the sector need to be brought up to speed as quickly and effectively as possible. This course provides that opportunity and also a certificate to demonstrate competence. The first public course starts in late April with the teaching days in Manchester in May, June and July. The course can also be delivered in house.

Take a look at the new IG cert on our website.

Act Now Training runs many courses in all aspects Information Governance. With courses starting from as little as £20, we have a range to suit all requirements. From e-learning, full hour webinars, all the way up to expert level Practitioner courses that are accredited, we have something to suit your requirements. All our courses are flexible and can be delivered in house at your premises. Please get in touch for a bespoke quote.


Act Now Launches GDPR Handbook

We all know that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) cannot be read in isolation.

In September, the DCMS published the Data Protection Bill. Amongst other things, it sets out how the UK Government intends to exercise its GDPR “derogations”; where Members states are allowed to make their own rules.

There are also a number of guidance documents from the Information Commissioner’s Office as well as the Article 29 Working Party on different aspects of GDPR. Wouldn’t it be useful to have one version of the GDPR containing clear signposts to the relevant provisions of the Bill and official guidance under each Article/Recital?

Act Now is pleased to announce the launch of its GDPR Handbook. This is a B5 size colour document. It is designed for data protection practitioners who want a single printed resource on the GDPR. It contains the full text of the GDPR together with:

  • Corresponding GDPR Recitals under each Article
  • Notes on the relevant provisions of Data Protection Bill
  • Links to official guidance and useful blog posts
  • Relevant extracts of the Data Protection Bill (in the Appendices).

A lot of the useful explanation of the provisions (Articles) is contained in the Recitals, which are at the front of the official text of the GDPR. Consequently, the reader has to constantly flick back and forth between the two. By placing the corresponding Recitals under each Article, the Act Now GDPR Handbook allows a more natural readying of the GDPR.

The Act Now GDPR Handbook is currently on sale at the special introductory price of £29.99. There is a 33% discount for the public sector and charities.

This will be a very useful document for those acting as Data Protection Officer under GDPR as well as data protection lawyers and advisers.


In recent weeks, half a million people, mostly Rohingya women and children, have fled violence in Myanmar’s (Burma) Rakhine state. They are seeking refuge in Bangladesh, where they urgently need food, water, shelter and medical care.

For each copy of the GDPR handbook you order, Act Now Training will donate £1 to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Emergency Appeal.

By popular demand, we have added an extra course in Manchester for our GDPR Practitioner Certificate. Our first workshop on the Data Protection Bill course is fully booked. We have places left in London and Manchester.

Councillors, council tax arrears and FOI


Some council chiefs, as well as some councillors, do not like the Freedom of Information Act 2000(FOI) claiming, amongst other things, that it costs too much and is used to request trivial information. Against this backdrop, how do council FOI officers deal with requests (often from journalists) for the names of councillors who are in arrears or have defaulted on their council tax bills?

Some councils have refused such requests citing the section 40(2) exemption for third party personal data. For this exemption to be engaged a public authority must show that disclosure of the name(s) would breach one of the Data Protection Principles. Most cases in this area focus on First Principle and so public authorities have to ask, would disclosure be fair and lawful? They also have to justify the disclosure by reference to one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA (as well as Schedule 3  in the case of sensitive personal data). In the absence of consent, most authorities end up considering whether disclosure is necessary for the applicant to pursue a legitimate interest and, even if it is, whether the disclosure is unwarranted due to the harm caused to the subject(s) (condition 6 of Schedule 2)? Of course when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018 the disclosure of the data will have to be justified by reference to Article 6 of GDPR.

A 2016 Upper Tribunal decision sheds light on this difficult issue. Haslam v Information Commissioner and Bolton Council [2016] UKUT 0139 (AAC) (10 March 2016) concerned a request by a journalist (Mr Haslam) for disclosure of information about councillors who had received reminders for non-payment of council tax since May 2011.  The Council told the appellant that there were six such councillors and informed him which political party they were members of, how much had been owed, how much was outstanding, and that two had been summoned to court.  The Appellant asked for the names of the individual councillors.  The Council refused stating that the names were exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) FOI.  The Appellant appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, against the decision of the Information Commissioner to uphold the Refusal Notice, in relation to the two councillors who had been summoned to court. The First-tier Tribunal dismissed the appeal.  Subsequently one councillor voluntarily identified himself, so that there was only an issue regarding one councillor before the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal concluding that releasing the name would not contravene the data protection principles, because processing was necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the Appellant, and was not unwarranted because of prejudice to the councillor’s rights/legitimate interests.  This was a public matter in which the councilor could not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Judge Markus in her judgment said:

“40. But, in the case of a councillor, it is not only a private matter. A councillor is a public official with public responsibilities to which non-payment of council tax is directly and significantly relevant.  A number of specific features of this were advanced in submissions to the First-tier Tribunal.  In particular, section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 bars a councillor from voting on the Council’s budget if he or she has an outstanding council tax debt of over two months.  If a councillor is present at any meeting at which relevant matters are discussed, he or she must disclose that section 106 applies and may not vote.  Failure to comply is a criminal offence. Thus council tax default strikes at the heart of the performance of a councillor’s functions. It is evident that setting the council’s budget is one of the most important roles undertaken by councillors.  The loss of one vote could make a fundamental difference to the outcome. This adds a significant public dimension to the non-payment of council tax.  The very fact that Parliament has legislated in this way reflects the connection between non-payment and the councillor’s public functions.  Moreover, as the Commissioner observed in his decision notice, recent failure to pay council tax is likely to impact on public perceptions and confidence in a councillor as a public figure.

  1. These factors are of critical relevance to expectation.  As the Commissioner  had observed, those who have taken public office should expect to be subject to a higher degree of scrutiny and that information which impinges on their public office might be disclosed.  More specifically, unless the local electorate know the identity of a councillor to whom section 106 applies, they cannot discover that that councillor is failing to fulfil his functions.  Nor can they know that the process of declarations under section 106 is being adhered to. In addition the electorate may wish to know whether they can trust a councillor properly to discharge his functions if he stands for office again.” 

So there we have it. Councillors can normally expect to have their names disclosed if they default on council tax. However this is not an absolute rule. In the words of Judge Markus (at paragraph 56):

“There may be exceptional cases in which the personal circumstances of a councillor are so compelling that a councillor should be protected from such exposure.”

The Bolton News, where the Appellant works, finally named the councillor who is the subject of this case (Click here if interested). By the way, I may share a name with him but I can assure you that I am up to date with my council tax bill payments!

We will be discussing this and other recent FOI decisions in our forthcoming FOI workshops and webinars.

How would you do on the BCS Certificate in Freedom of Information exam? Have a go at our test.

New Local Government Transparency Code Consultation


The Local Government Transparency Code is due to be updated once again to require local authorities to proactively publish even more information. The Department for Communities and Local Government is consulting on proposals to require councils to publish:

  • more information about land and property assets they hold on the Government’s electronic Property Information Management System
  • existing procurement publication in particular forms
  • the costs of “in-house” service contracts above £500k
  • greater detail about parking charges as well as statistics about the enforcement of parking restrictions
  • information about dealings with small and medium-sized enterprises
  • all information under the Code through a single website landing page

The Code is made under Section 3 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 which gives the Secretary of State the power to issue a code of practice about the publication of information by local authorities in England (as well as, amongst others, National Park Authorities, Fire and Waste Authorities and Integrated Transport Authorities) relating to the discharge of their functions.

In February 2015 the code was re issued to require local authorities to publish information about their social housing stock.  Smaller councils, including parish councils have to comply with the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities, which was published in December 2014.

The consultation began on 12th May 2016. All responses should be received by no later than 8th July 2016.

Give your career a boost by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in FOI. No time/budget to attend courses? Keep up to date with all the latest FOI decisions by viewing our live one-hour web seminars

Local Government Transparency Code Re – Issued


In February 2015 the Local Government Transparency Code was re issued to require local authorities to publish information about their social housing stock.

The Code was made under Section 3 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 which gives the Secretary of State the power to issue a code of practice about the publication of information by local authorities in England (as well as, amongst others, National Park Authorities, Fire and Waste Authorities and Integrated Transport Authorities) relating to the discharge of their functions. In October last year, Eric Pickles (the then Communities and Local Government Secretary) used this power to issue what was then an updated version of the Code.

As with the previous version, the re issued code requires quarterly publication of the same categories information namely:

  • Each individual item of expenditure exceeding £500 e.g. invoices, grant payments, expense payments, rent etc.
  • Government Procurement Card transactions
  • Procurement information

Part 2.2 of the code sets out nine sets of data, which must be published annually. This includes local authority land, grants to voluntary bodies, trade union facility time, parking information and senior salaries. Here a new category of data, about social housing assets, has been added.

Local authorities owning housing must now publish details (set out in paragraph 38 to 44) of the value of social housing stock that is held in their Housing Revenue Account. This information must be published on the first occasion not later than 1 September 2015 (based on the most up to date valuation data available at the time of publishing the information), then in April 2016 and every April thereafter.

The Government believes that local people are interested in how their authority manages the social housing assets they hold. The move will give people the information they need to ask questions of how their council is managing stock to ensure this is put to best use, including considering whether higher value, vacant properties could be used to fund the building of new homes and reduce waiting times.

We could see more developments in this area. As I said in my recent blog post about the future of FOI, the Conservatives are keener on transparency through such codes than through extending FOI. Their election manifesto says:

“Transparency has also been at the heart of our approach to government. Over the last five years, we have been open about government spending, provided access to taxpayer-funded research, pursued open data and helped establish the Open Government Partnership. We will continue to be the most transparent government in the world.”

Smaller councils, including parish councils have to comply with the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities, which was published in December last year.

Give your career a boost by gaining an internationally recognised qualification in FOI. No time/budget to attend courses? Keep up to date with all the latest FOI decisions by viewing our live one-hour web seminars.

New Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities

file0001686927828In October 2014 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), published an updated version of the Local Government Transparency Code . This applies in England only and replaces the previous version. The code requires councils (as well as, amongst others, National Park Authorities, Fire and Waste Authorities and Integrated Transport Authorities) to proactively publish certain categories information (in Part 2 of the code) whilst also recommending that they go beyond the minimum (in part 3 of the code). Read more about the code here.

But what of smaller public authorities and parish councils? On 10th March 2014 the Government launched a consultation on a draft transparency code for such organisations, which will act as a substitute for routine external audit.

On 17th December 2014 the DCLG finally published the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities. This code applies to the following types of authorities with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000:

  • parish councils
  • internal drainage boards
  • charter trustees
  • port health authorities

This code is issued to meet “the government’s desire to place more power into citizens’ hands to increase democratic accountability.” However it is published initially as recommended practice, although the Secretary of State told Parliament on 17th December that he intends to make the code mandatory by the start of the 2015 financial year.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 sets out a new audit framework for public authorities which are currently covered by the Audit Commission regime. Under this new framework smaller authorities will be exempt from routine external audit. In place of routine audit, they will be subject to the new transparency requirements laid out in this code. This will enable local electors and ratepayers to access relevant information about the authorities’ accounts and governance.

Part 2 of the code sets out the information to be published:

  1. all items of expenditure above £100 (see paragraphs 13 – 15);
  2. end of year accounts (see paragraphs 16 and 17),
  3. annual governance statement (see paragraphs 18and 19),
  4. internal audit report (see paragraphs 20 – 22),
  5. list of councillor or member responsibilities (see paragraph 23)
  6. the details of public land and building assets (see paragraphs 24 – 27)
  7. Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings (see paragraphs 29 and 30)

The code states that the information specified must be published on a website which is publicly accessible and free of charge. This could be on the authority’s own website or that of the billing authority in its area (district or London borough or unitary council).

Ibrahim Hasan will be discussing both transparency codes in his forthcoming live and interactive one-hour web seminar.

Information Governance in Health & Social Care Conference

capture-20141210-161914Act Now is pleased to announce that it will be holding a major conference in the new year on the 24th of March entitled ‘Health Now – Information Governance in Health and Social Care – Where are we now?’ Speakers from the ICO, many areas of the NHS, NADPO and Act Now will be meeting in Leeds to discuss the future of information governance and patient care.

If you work in information governance, records management, data protection, freedom of information, IT, compliance, information and compliance management, data & information management then this is for you. Over 100 delegates are expected from Local and Central Government, Health and Social Care and associated sectors.

To download your advance copy of the conference flyer click here. With a delegate fee of only £199 we expect a high demand for places. Book Now for Health Now! See our other courses for the health and social care sector here.

FOI Can Make You Money

Ibrahim Hasan has done a guest blog post for the Save FOI Blog. He says…

“Many public authorities have expressed concerns about the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) being “abused” by the private sector. They have cited examples of information requests where they are effectively asked to do unpaid research or to supply facts, figures and statistics, which are then repackaged and sold on for profit with little return for the authorities. Many have taken the opportunity to present evidence to the Justice Select Committee  about the cost of dealing with FOI requests. Although some of the figures cited are somewhat dubious, there seems to be groundswell of opinion that the price of openness and transparency is too high. But how many of the same public authorities have considered the forthcoming changes to the FOI regime which may well assist in defraying some of the costs?

The Protection of Freedoms Bill will provide an opportunity for public authorities to raise much-needed revenue from the licensing of some information released pursuant to FOI requests.


Freedom of Information Workshops from Act Now Training Ltd
Venues: London, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham
Click here for more details

Those Were the Days!

Martin Gibson, of Buckinghamshire County Council, reflects on the challenges facing a Data Protection Officer and how relationships with the Information Commissioner’s Office have changed over the years.

Read more here

RIPA it up and start again?

At a time when the phone hacking scandal has shone a spotlight on the murky world of police and tabloid surveillance, the Government, through the Protection of Freedoms Bill, is choosing a soft target in local authorities rather than focusing on the real culprits.

The Bill is currently proceeding through the Committee Stage in the House of Lords. If passed in its current form, it will require local authorities to have all their surveillance authorisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) (Directed Surveillance, CHIS and the acquisition of Communications Data) approved by a magistrate before they take effect.

Most local authorities feel that this is a disproportionate response to inaccurate media stories about their “overzealous” use of RIPA. When the the Coalition Government published the Bill in February 2011, the Home Secretary, announced:

“The first duty of the state is the protection of its citizens, but this should never be an excuse for the government to intrude into peoples’ private lives. Snooping on the contents of families’ bins and security checking school-run mums are not necessary for public safety and this Bill will bring them to an end. I am bringing common sense back to public protection and freeing people to go about their daily lives without a fear that the state is monitoring them.”

The reality is that most authorities only use their powers in a handful of cases each year and only when there is no other viable means of investigating offences and then in a reasonable and proportionate manner. The latest annual report by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (2010/2011) states:

“Generally speaking, local authorities use RIPA/RIP(S)A powers sparingly with over 50% granting five or fewer directed surveillance authorisations during the reporting period. Some 16% granted none at all.”

By contrast, it seems that there is a much more convincing case for stronger regulation of media (especially the tabloids) and police surveillance. The setting up of the Leveson Inquiry and the inquiry by the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport meant that at first the primary concern was about allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World. However it has now become clear that hacking phones was just one part of the unscrupulous journalist’s toolkit. It also included buying information from the police, blagging sensitive personal information from public and private sector organisations and the hacking politicians’ computers to gain access to their e mails.

Allegations have also surfaced that that the police have been misusing their powers under RIPA to assist the tabloids to locate the whereabouts of celebrities and other persons of interest. Working with mobile phone companies, the police have the ability to pinpoint a phone by monitoring which signal masts it is using and triangulating its location. This involves the acquisition of “traffic data” under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of RIPA and has to be properly authorised in writing by a senior police officer. The technique is known as “pinging”. It is meant to be used in the most serious cases e.g. kidnap and murder cases to locate the whereabouts of victims and suspects. It is not designed to help journalists locate a celebrity or to track a premiership footballer “playing away from home.”

From the various media reports it seems that the police have a serious case to answer about RIPA misuse. Why were powers which were enacted to assist the police to investigate serious criminal offences being abused for commercial gain? Surely, if the reports are true, there is a stronger case for judicial approval of police RIPA communications data powers than those of local authorities who occasionally use them to obtain the identity of a rogue trader or fly tipper? It may be time to amend the Bill to include the police in the requirement to seek Magistrates’ approval?

At present Part 2 of RIPA (covert surveillance) only covers public authorities. The tabloids often use questionable covert surveillance tactics which are unregulated. In November 20011 the BBC reported that The News of the World hired an ex-police officer in 2010 to carry out surveillance on two prominent lawyers, Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris, who were representing phone hacking victims. The investigator is reported to have filmed members of Mr Lewis’s family, including his teenage daughter, on a shopping trip. These allegations were subsequently confirmed by both lawyers when giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

It’s fair to say that the tabloids, by doing covert surveillance, have had more of an impact on individuals’ privacy than local authorities. Currently there is no law, which comprehensively regulates these activities. Some may lead to trespass, harassment or a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. The government would do more to protect peoples’ civil liberties by turning its attention to media surveillance than local authority surveillance, which is already properly regulated. There is now a very strong case for bringing the media within the scope of the RIPA regime. Local authorities should be left alone, without further regulation, to continue what they have, in the majority of cases, been doing in a necessary and proportionate manner.

We have a series of courses on RIPA and Surveillance which also cover the changes in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. See also our RIPA Forms Guidance Document.