Publication - FOI/EIR release

Social Security Programme Gateway 0 reviews and health check: FOI review

Published: 18 Mar 2019

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
18 Mar 2019
Social Security Programme Gateway 0 reviews and health check: FOI review
FOI reference: FOI/19/00065 Review
Date received: 1 Feb 2019
Date responded: 12 Mar 2019
Information requested

 

Under FOISA, please provide copies of the three Social Security Programme Gateway 0 (Strategic Assessment) reviews (dated September 2015, March 2016, and November 2017) and the Agency Gateway Review Health check (dated May 2018).

 

Response

 

I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted. Please find enclosed redacted copies of the three Social Security Programme Gateway 0 reviews (dated September 2015, March 2016, and November 2017) and the Agency Gateway Review Health check (dated May 2018).

The exemptions applied under sections s.28(1), s.29(1)(a), s.30(b)(i), s.30(b)(ii), and s.38(1)(b) of the FOISA apply to some of the information within the documents. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex of this letter.

 

We endeavour to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance exemptions under section s.28(1), s.29(1)(a), s.30(b)(i), s.30(b)(ii) and s.38(1)(b) of FOISA apply to some of the information requested.

 

s.28(1)

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. The release of these communications will mean that the UK Government are likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in maintaining good relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

 

s.29(1)(a)

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation and development of the Scottish Government’s policy on the Social Security Programme Management and Delivery.

 

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

 

s.30(b)(i) and s.30(b)(ii)

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. These exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of advice and views for the purposes of deliberation. These exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with the review team on independent assurance reviews will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on Social Security Programme Management and Delivery, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

 

s.38(1)(b)

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

 

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

foi-19-00065-review-2015

16 page PDF
621.9 kB

foi-19-00065-review-2016

18 page PDF
644.5 kB

foi-19-00065-review-2017

19 page PDF
437.7 kB

foi-19-00065-health-check

14 page PDF
319.4 kB

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG