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News IconYoung people's awareness of FOI rights is "significantly lower"

New research shows that only 25% of secondary school pupils in Scotland know they have freedom of information (FOI) rights, compared to 85% FOI awareness amongst the adult population.

Under FOI anyone has the right to request and receive information from public bodies, with bodies required to respond to requests for information promptly, and within 20 working days.

The research, commissioned by the Scottish Information Commissioner and carried out by Ipsos MORI, surveyed more than 1,700 Scottish secondary school pupils. It also found that:

  • Only 28% of young people were confident they would receive a response if they made a request for information
  • 38% of young people felt that public bodies were more likely to respond to a request from an adult than a young person.

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry, who enforces FOI law, said:

"The findings of this research are concerning. Not only do young people have a significantly lower awareness of FOI, they are also not confident that their requests would be taken seriously by public bodies.

"FOI is open to everyone, and it's important that young people know this. They have the same rights as anyone else to access information about public services and decision-making on the issues that affect them; whether it be related to education, health care, recreational facilities, public safety or any other issue.

"Information is a powerful tool. It helps us understand issues and can give people evidence if they want to call for change. If people don't know about their FOI rights, or how they help, it stops them getting the information they need."

Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) recently used FOI as part of their ongoing campaign against the use of anti-loitering 'mosquito' devices in Scotland. These emit high-pitched sounds at a frequency only young people can hear, to discourage them from gathering in public spaces.

Kit McCarthy MSYP (North East Fife) said:

"Freedom of information was an invaluable tool for us when challenging 'mosquito' devices. Without it, we would never have realised the sheer scale of the issue. It is has led to superb results, such as ScotRail's commitment not to use these devices at any of its stations across Scotland.

"For the Scottish Youth Parliament, freedom of information is important for two reasons. It is incredibly easy to use: I made close to 40 requests to Scottish councils and transport authorities for the purpose of the campaign.

Secondly, it is blind to age or personal experience. A 14-year-old Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament has the same right to information as anyone else, and that is vital for our campaigns, and for transparency generally."

Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry added:

"The Scottish Youth Parliament's campaign is a great example of young people using FOI rights to address an important issue.

"We're seizing the opportunity, in the Year of Young People, to raise awareness of FOI rights so that everyone has the opportunity to access the information they need to see."

The Commissioner consulted on raising awareness of FOI with Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament at the SYP National Sitting in Stranraer on 9 June. Feedback from this consultation exercise is informing the Commissioner's future work.

The full Ipsos MORI research report can be downloaded here:

PDF icon Children and young people's FOI awareness - survey results (PDF 139 kB)

A short video, produced by the Commissioner, to introduce FOI rights to young people is available at: http://bit.ly/2BJ8Ygl.  More information on using FOI rights is available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/yourrights.

**ENDS**

Notes to Editors:

About the Research

  • The research was conducted by Ipsos MORI as part of its Young People in Scotland survey. This involved a survey of 1,781 secondary school pupils (S1-S6), carried out between September and November 2017.
  • Results for this survey were compared with an Ipsos MORI survey of the adult population in Scotland. This surveyed 1,029 adult respondents in February and March 2017.
  • The Young People in Scotland survey report can be downloaded from the link above.  Our survey of the adult population in Scotland is available at:  www.itspublicknowledge.info/research.

About the Scottish Youth Parliament

  • The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) represents Scotland's young people. The charity's vision for Scotland is of a nation that actively listens to and values the meaningful participation of its children and young people, to ensure Scotland is the best place in the world to grow up.
  • A rights-based organisation, SYP's mission, vision, and values are grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and, in particular, Article 12 - "Young people have the right to express their views freely and have their opinions listened to in all matters affecting them".
  • The charity's democratically elected members (MSYPs) listen to and identify the issues that are most important to young people, to ensure that their voices are heard by decision-makers.
  • Right Here, Right Now is SYP's national campaign which runs from October 2017-October 2018, and has three main themes:

1. To influence law, policy and practice in order to strengthen the protection of young people's rights.

2. To strengthen and enhance the status of MSYPs at a local level and within national voluntary organisations, and to improve the links SYP has with other institutions such as the Scottish Parliament.

3. To promote young people's rights to young people and those responsible for upholding these rights, empowering individuals to defend their own rights and the rights of others.

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