Scottish private homes planned to come under freedom of information law

Private care homes in Scotland will be subject to laws on freedom of information (FOI) under new Labour plans, following criticism of the care home death toll during the pandemic, according to the Daily Record.

Labour member of the Scottish Parliament Katy Clark, who put together the proposal, has said that the public’s enforceable right to access information must be extended; however, Scottish Care’s Donald Macaskill expressed that if the plan was enacted, some members could consider legal action, as FOI would allow the public access to information from hundreds of taxpayer-funded bodies.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said in a speech that he will back an FOI extension to all health and education providers, including care homes in the private and voluntary sectors that receive public money.

If this proposal goes through, care homes would have 20 days to respond to any questions and could only refuse if the information was exempt.

The consultation will be launched by Clark in August 2022. “FOI was one of Labour’s greatest achievements in the coalition government,” she said.

“However, so much of this has been eroded in the past decade, with the rise of unaccountable and distant arms lengths bodies’ spending public money and making critical decisions with little scrutiny.

“Also, the diversification of publicly funded services that are being delivered by the private and third sectors such as in health and social care.

“Never was this more apparent than during the Covid pandemic, with the tragic deaths in care homes, so many of which operate in the private sector and are exempt from FOI. This meant families could not make an FOI request direct to the provider.

“Freedom of information laws must follow the public pound.”

“All public bodies are already covered by freedom of information law and we are currently considering the extension of Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 to additional organisations providing public services,” said a government spokesman. “Furthermore, we have plans already in place to consult later this year to gather views on how access to information rights can be further protected and strengthened in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has committed to considering an extension of FOISA in the social care sector. However, we have a statutory duty to consult before making any change. Any future order extending coverage of FOISA would also be subject to Parliamentary approval.”

Date Published: August 3, 2022