Freedom of Information

31 Mar, 2020

What is a Freedom of Information request?

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 gives you the right to access records held by the Decision Support Service. You may ask for personal and for non-personal information.

Asking for personal information

The Decision Support Service is part of the Mental Health Commission. The Mental Health Commission is a Freedom of Information Body. As a Freedom of Information Body, the Mental Health Commission welcomes requests for personal information. Here are some examples of what you may ask for:

  • any records held by the Decision Support Service and/or the Mental Health Commission which relate to you personally
  • all records created after 21 April 1998 (the date of the first Freedom of Information Act in Ireland)
  • any information you may need to help you to understand a current record

You have the right to ask for your personal information. You also have the right to ask for

  • your records to be amended or deleted if the information is found to be incorrect or misleading
  • the reasons why decisions were taken which affect, or have affected, you

Asking for non-personal information

You may ask the Decision Support Service and/or the Mental Health Commission for non-personal (that is, corporate) information. This type of information refers to the operation of the public body generally and does not personally belong to any one individual.

Proof of identity

Personal information

If you want to ask the Decision Support Service and/or the Mental Health Commission for your personal information, you must provide proof of identity. This is needed to ensure that the information you are asking for is sent directly to you at your address or email address and not to someone else.

When you ask for your personal information, you must send:

  • a copy of your identification which has your full name and photograph (for example, from your passport, driver’s licence, etc.)
  • proof of your current address where you would like the information to be sent (for example, the top of a utility bill which shows your name, address and date). This information must be less than six months’ old

Non-personal information

Non-personal information is not your personal information. If you are asking for non-personal information, you do not have to provide proof of identity.

Are there any exemptions applied to the information I can ask for under the Freedom of Information Act 2014?

Yes. The Freedom of Information Act 2014 sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State and/or of third parties. This means that there are specific circumstances where the information you request will not be released (for example, to protect confidentiality). If any of these exemptions are applied to withhold information, the reasons will be explained to you when you receive the decision on your request.

How do I make a request?

When making a request, you must do so in writing. You will need to provide the following information:

  • say that you are making a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2014
  • give us as much detail about the information you are looking for
  • tell us how you would like to receive this information (would you like to receive it by post or by email?)

Is there a form I can fill in?

Yes. You may write to us to request your information. There is also a form you may fill in. You may access this form by clicking on the link Form provided.

Where do I send my request?

The Freedom of Information Officer for the Mental Health Commission also deals with requests made for information held by the Decision Support Service. You may send your request or the completed form by email or by post. Here are the addresses:

By Post 

FOI Officer
Mental Health Commission
Waterloo Exchange 
Waterloo Road
Dublin 4
D04 E5W7

By Email

DPFOI@mhcirl.ie

Can someone else make a request on my behalf?

Yes. You may ask for your records to be sent to someone you ask to act on your behalf. This could be a legal representative, health professional, family member, etc. If you would like someone to act on your behalf, please fill in this form which you will find by clicking on the link Form provided. 

When you have filled in this form, you should attach it to your written request or Freedom of Information request form and send it to us by post or by email to the addresses given above.

How long does it take to receive a response?

You can expect to receive a response within four weeks (20 working days) from the date your request is received by the Mental Health Commission.

When will I receive an acknowledgement of my request?

You will receive an acknowledgement of your request within two weeks (10 working days) from the date your request is received by the Mental Health Commission. This acknowledgement will also tell you when you may expect to receive a decision on your request.

How much does it cost to make a Freedom of Information request?

There is no fee for making a Freedom of Information request.

Are there any other charges?

Fees may be charged for searching, finding and copying the information you ask for. This process involves two main stages:

  • locating the broad set of records in which the ones you requested may be found
  • identifying, extracting and assembling the records requested for examination

Fees are only charged for information that is released.

Please note: There is no fee charged for access to a personal record relating to you.

What are these fees?

Each request for non-personal information is considered on a case-by-case basis. When considering your request, it may be necessary to charge for searching, finding and copying the information you ask for. The current charge is €20 for each hour spent looking for, and retrieving, the information. The charge for photocopying records is €0.04 per sheet.

Fees may be charged for the search, retrieval and copying of records. The following sets out the bases upon which these fees are calculated:

Hours

Estimate

Action

Less than 5 hours

€100 or less

No fees may be charged for search, retrieval and/or copying

Between 5 and 24 hours

€101 - €500

Search, retrieval and copying fees apply

Between 25 and 34 hours

€501 - €700 No more than €500 may be charged for search, retrieval and/or copying
More than 35 hours More than €700

The FOI Officer will contact you to ask you to refine or to amend the request so that the fees for search, retrieval and copying fall below €700.

If you do not want to refine or to amend your original request, then the request may be refused under Section 27.12 (iii) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014

 

In cases where search, retrieval and copying fees apply, we will tell you this information to allow you to decide if you wish to continue with your request. Where these fees apply, the Mental Health Commission is obliged to charge you a deposit of 20% of the estimated cost before continuing the search.

Do I have the right to appeal the decision?

Yes. If you are not happy with the decision of the Freedom of Information Officer, you may ask for an internal review. This review will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of staff at the Mental Health Commission to the person who made the initial decision.

What information do I have to include when asking for an internal review?

If you are asking for the initial decision to your request to be reviewed, you are asked to give an explanation. The reasons for asking for an internal review may include where

  • you are unhappy with the initial response you received (for example, you were refused the information you asked for, you were unhappy with the method by which you could access the information, you were unhappy with the fees you were asked to pay, etc.)
  • you did not receive a reply within the four weeks (20 working days) of making your request (this is known as a ‘deemed refusal’ and, where this happens, you are allowed to ask for an internal review)

How long do I have to ask for an internal review?

You must ask for an internal review within four weeks (20 working days) from the date of the initial decision to your request. Late appeals may, however, be allowed in certain circumstances.

How long does an internal review take?

The Freedom of Information Appeals Officer must complete the internal review process within three weeks (15 working days) of receiving your request. The decision of the Freedom of Information Appeals Officer will be sent to you within those three weeks.

Where can I send my request for an internal review?

Your request for an internal review of the initial decision can be sent by post or by email. Here are the two addresses:

By post

FOI Appeals Officer
Mental Health Commission
Waterloo Exchange
Waterloo Road
Dublin 4
D04 E5W7

By Email

Appeals@mhcirl.ie

 

Do I have to pay for an internal review?

The fee for an internal review under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is €30 or €10 for Medical Card holders and their dependents. No fee is charged for an internal review where you asked for your own personal records held by the Decision Support Service and/or the Mental Health Commission.

Can I appeal the decision of the internal reviewer?

Yes. If you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review, you may appeal that decision to the Office of the Information Commissioner. It is usual for the internal review process to be completed before such an appeal is made.

How long do I have to make an appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner?

Once the internal review process has been completed, you may appeal the decision within six months by contacting the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you make an appeal, the Office of the Information Commissioner will fully investigate the matter and issue a fresh decision.

How do I contact the Office of the Information Commissioner?

When asking for an appeal, the Officer of the Information Commissioner may be contacted by post or by using the form on its website. Its contact details are as follows:

By post

Office of the Information Commissioner
6 Earlsfort Terrace
Saint Kevin’s
Dublin 2
D02 W773

On Website

You can access their form by clicking on the link provided below.

https://www.oic.ie/apply-for-a-review/start-application/

How much does it cost to make an appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner?

The fee for appeals to the Office of the Information Commissioner under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is €50 or €15 for Medical Card holders and their dependents.