- 22 Jan 2020
Date received: 17 Dec 2019
Date responded: 20 Jan 2020
1. The modelling, analysis and calculation used to support the Scottish Government's position, outlined in response to the Consultation on Disability Assistance in Scotland in respect of Disability Assistance for Older People, that "we believe that there are several important reasons why this would be unachievable to deliver”.
2. Granular detail of the estimated caseload and estimated costs of the policy, and the calculations and working presenting how that estimate of the caseload and costs were assumed to produce the totals listed in figure 1, table 1 and table 2 in the above mentioned document, as well as the calculations presented in response to parliamentary questions S5W-26142 and S5W-26062.
3. The relevant briefing papers which support the position used internally (for ministers and officials) including any communication discussing the position or requests for clarification.
Further to my email of 18th December, I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have reached a decision on your request.
I can now provide our response to your original request, dated 18th November 2019 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
I apologise that there was a delay in responding to you request. As this was a complex request, containing multiple elements, there was a lot of information to consider. Unfortunately, given the large number of documents this took longer than expected.
For points 1 and 2 of your request I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested in the format you asked for.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. However, you may wish to contact the Scottish Fiscal Commission at email@example.com who may be able to help you. The reasons why we don’t have the information are explained in the Annex.
In this instance we are also unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemptions under sections s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation) and s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions applies are explained in the Annex.
For point 3 of your request, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing all of the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. We are able to provide the information you requested on the modelling, analysis and calculations, however given the number and size of briefing papers with briefing on a possible mobility element for Disability Assistance for Older People it has not been possible to collate these papers and communication on the positon within the cost limit. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.
You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. This might be best done by reframing the question to ask for relevant extracts from briefing papers on the positon that it would be unachievable to deliver a mobility element like that included in other disability benefits. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
The Scottish Government does not have the information
This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
Section 17(1) of FOISA (information not held) requires the Scottish Government to notify you if it does not have the information you requested. The Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have asked for because it is held by the Scottish Fiscal Commission. This is the case for the information in Figure 1 of the document in your question, as it is a forecast produced by the Scottish Fiscal Commission. The Scottish Government does not hold the calculations or assumptions used to produce this figure.
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (formulation or development of Scottish Government policy) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Information withheld relates to developing the position on the possible provision of a mobility element for Disability Assistance for Older People.
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 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 on how to best support the mobility needs of older people 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.
Exemptions under s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and other officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on whether it is achievable to deliver a mobility element for Disability Assistance for Older People, in the same style as for Personal Independence
Payment, will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive issues such as the differing mobility support available for people of different ages, and discussions around what support can be provided for older people are still ongoing.
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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and other officials as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on mobility support for older people until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House