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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
  2. What are the benefits of FOI?
  3. Do I need to make an FOI request to get information from SOLAS?
  4. How does FOI work?
  5. Who can make an FOI request?
  6. How do I make an FOI request?
  7. Who will make the decision?
  8. Can I get help making a request?
  9. How much will I have to pay?
  10. Can I get access to the information I seek?
  11. How soon will I get a reply to my request?
  12. If I am unhappy with the decision, what can I do?
  13. Will SOLAS give me the reason for the decision it makes?
  14. Does the FOI Act cover all SOLAS records or just recent ones?
  15. Does the FOI Act cover services provided to SOLAS by external contractors?
  16. Who can I contact in SOLAS with regard to Freedom of Information?
  1. What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
    The Freedom of Information Act 1997, (as amended by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003), was passed into law on 21st April 1997 and applies to FÁS from the 21st January 2001. All powers and functions previously assigned to FAS were transferred to SOLAS under the Further Education & Training Act 2013 on 27th October 2013.  The Act gives members of the public legal rights to:
    • Access official records created since 21st April 1998, which are held by Government Departments or other designated public bodies which are subject to the Act;
    • Access records relating to you personally, whenever created;
    • Have personal information corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
    • Obtain information about the criteria used by Public Bodies in making decisions that affect them.
    There are exemptions to protect sensitive information where disclosure may damage key interests of the state or citizen.

    A person does not have to specify why access is required and the Government department or public body concerned must provide an explanation to the requester if access is refused.

    For the purposes of the FOI Act, SOLAS is a public body.
  2. What are the benefits of FOI?
    The FOI Act provides for greater access to official information by citizens.

    The FOI Act is aimed at promoting more openness and accountability in the public service. It also aims to assist the public to become more informed about the services available to ensure that those who avail of the service or seek to do so receive the highest quality service possible, within the resources available.
  3. Do I need to make an FOI request to get information from SOLAS?
    No, it is not necessary to make an FOI request to get information from SOLAS. A lot of information is routinely made available by way of leaflets, press releases, publications and in response to enquiries. Such information will continue to be available on request without the need to use the FOI Act. If you are in doubt as to whether the information you require is routinely available, please contact the FOI Unit who can advise you further.
  4. How does FOI work?
    The Act requires SOLAS to respond to requests from the public for information they hold. In most instances SOLAS must give their decision on the request within 4 weeks of receiving it. SOLAS has produced reference manuals (FOI Section 15 & Section 16 Reference Manuals) setting out the structure of the organisation, the arrangements in place for providing information and any rules, guidelines or practices used in reaching decisions that effect the public. The reference manuals are available on request from the FOI Unit, SOLAS, Block 1, Castleforbes House, Castleforbes Road, D1 or any  SOLAS Office.
  5. Who can make an FOI request?
    Anyone can make an FOI request.
  6. How do I make an FOI request?
    There are 3 ways to make a request under FOI:
    1. You can write to SOLAS stating that you are making an application under the Freedom of Information Act. Written applications should be sent to:

      FOI Unit
      SOLAS 
      Block 1, Castleforbes House
      Castleforbes Road
      Dublin 1
    2. You can email SOLAS at foi@solas.ie stating that you are making a request under the FOI Act. If the statutory fee applies, you will be contacted directly by the FOI unit for payment (your request will not be processed until payment is received).
    3. You can call to any SOLAS Training Centre, or SOLAS Head Office and complete the form entitled "Request for Information under the Freedom of Information Act". This form comes with a freepost envelope for your convenience.
    When making a request under FOI, the following is required:
    • State that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Acts, 1997 and 2003;
    • State your full name and address and give a daytime phone number (if any);
    • Pay the prescribed application fee of €15 (Medical Card holders €10) for a request for non-personal records. There is no prescribed fee for personal records. Payment must be by cheque, bank draft or postal order.
    In terms of details of Request, you should:
    • State whether the request being made relates to personal or non-personal records;
    • State the preferred form of access, if you wish to receive a copy of the record or wish to inspect the records at the SOLAS office;
    • Provide a description of the records required. The request should be as specific as possible to enable the information required to be identified;
    • Provide proof of identity (your full birth certificate or passport and one other form of identity, e.g. a utility bill) before access is given to personal records.
    You do not have to give a reason for making the request at any stage.

    In cases where SOLAS is not clear what records are being requested, it will assist you to put the request in such a way that the records being sought can be identified.
  7. Who will make the decision?
    Decision-makers have been appointed by SOLAS and trained to deal with requests received by the FOI Unit. Decision-makers do not necessarily have to be working in the area of work to which the request relates, or located in the same region.
  8. Can I get help making the request?
    Yes, if you require any help, the staff of the SOLAS FOI Unit will be happy to assist you in the formulation of your request.
  9. How much will I have to pay?
    There is an application fee of €15 for a request for non-personal records (Medical Card holders €10). There is no prescribed fee for personal records. Fees may also be charged based on the time spent in locating and copying records, at the hourly rate prescribed by the Minister for Finance. Payment must be by cheque, bank draft or postal order.

    You will be not charged for the time spent by SOLAS on deciding whether or not to grant the request.

    In respect of personal records, fees will not normally be applied, except where a large number of records are involved.

    Current Rates (Statutory Instruments 139 of 1998 and 13 of 1997):
    1. Search and retrieval,€20.95 and where the estimated fee exceeds €50.79, a 20% deposit will be required;
    2. Photocopying 4 cent per page;
    3. CD Rom €10.16 each;
    4. Radiograph (X-ray) €6.35 each.
  10. Can I get access to any information that I seek?
    You can make a request for any record held by a public body covered by the FOI Act. This does not mean you will get everything you request. There are exemptions and categories of information which are not subject to the Act.

    The FOI Act applies to SOLAS and the following records come within the scope of the Act:
    • All records relating to personal information held by SOLAS irrespective of when they were created;
    • All other records created from the commencement of the FOI Act, 21st April 1998;
    • Records created prior to 21st April 1998 can be subject to the Act, if they are necessary to understand a current record.
    It may sometimes be necessary to exempt certain types of information from release; these are set out in the Act. Among the key exemptions are:
    • Confidential information;
    • Commercially sensitive information;
    • Personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request).
    Some records might not be released to you if the decision-maker decides that the records are exempted. If this happens, you will be given an explanation of the reasons why access is being refused.
  11. How soon will I get a reply to my request?
    All aspects of FOI processing are subject to time limits specified in the Act. SOLAS is obliged to acknowledge the request within 2 weeks and make a decision within 4 weeks.

    If a third party is involved, it may be another 3 weeks to allow for consultation before you receive a response.

    In exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to extend the time. If this is necessary you will be kept informed.
  12. If I am unhappy with the decision, what can I do?
    If you are unhappy with the response, you may ask SOLAS to carry out an:
    1. Internal Review, where a more senior member of the FÁS staff will review the initial decision. There is an internal review prescribed application fee of €75 (Medical Card Holders €25). There is no prescribed fee for a review of a decision involving personal records.

      If you are unhappy with the internal reviewer's decision, you can directly appeal to the Information Commissioner, for an:
    2. Independent review of the internal reviewer’s decision. There is a prescribed application fee for an Appeal to the Information Commissioner of €150 (Medical Card Holders €75). There is no prescribed fee for a review of a decision involving personal records.

      Appeals may be made in writing directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:

      Office of the Information Commissioner
      18 Lower Leeson Street
      Dublin 2
      work Tel.: +353 (01) 639 5689
      work fax Fax: +353 (01) 639 5674

      Generally, the Information Commissioner's decision is final; however, there is a right to appeal to the High Court on a point of law.
  13. Will SOLAS give reasons for the decisions it makes?
    Yes, a person who is materially affected by a decision of SOLAS may, under the Act, seek the reasons for the decision and any findings of fact made for the purpose of reaching that decision. This is intended to allow individuals access to reasons made, which affect them personally, and not decisions, which affect a whole class or persons, or the population generally.
  14. Does the FOI Act cover all records or just recent ones?
    The FOI Act became law on 21st April 1998. Under the Act, an individual is entitled to seek access to all personal records held regarding them, irrespective of when the information was created.

    In the case of non-personal records, the right of access will only apply to records created after 21st April 1998, however, records created prior to 21st April 1998 can be subject to the Act, if they are necessary to understand a current record.
  15. Does the FOI Act cover services provided to SOLAS by external contractors?
    Yes, where organisations or persons provide services under contract to SOLAS, their records, insofar as they relate to the provision of that service, may be accessible under the FOI Act.
  16. Who can I contact in SOLAS with regard to Freedom of Information?
    Staff of the Unit:
    • Michael Bowden – Manager Legal Services/Freedom of Information
    • Emma Kelly – Senior Freedom of Information Officer
    • Eunice Chapman – Administrator
    • Lucy Bell – Clerical Officer
    Address and Contact details:

    Freedom of Information Unit
    SOLAS 
    Block 1, Castleforbes House
    Castleforbes Road
    Dublin 1
    work Tel.: +353 (01) 533 2500

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