Processing FOI, EIR and SARS requests for GDPR

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

North of Tyne Councils have been struggling with the challenging process of FOI management. There is a considerable amount of manual work and paper processes involved which puts an added burden on information governance staff. We currently get over 3200 FOI requests a year, over 400 EIRS and over 100 SARS between the councils.

We need to identify the issues.

Understand what options and channels would be the most efficient in letting people know about the service and offering a means for them to apply successfully that meets the users needs.

To develop a ‘to be’ service pattern which they can follow which leads to a successful completion first time around

User research report that gives an understanding of people’s journey for applying for an FOI.

We would like to collaborate to come up with a common solution that can be reused across other information governance services.


Deadline Event / activity Milestone
December 2018 Project kick off meeting arranged with North of Tyne Project started
January 2019 Establish the team.  Gather baseline data analysis, attend training, start writing the business case

Plan user research

Information gathering completed
February 2019 User journey mapping

Current service process mapped

Risk/security/privacy  assessment

Plan User research

Journey mapping complete, risk assessment complete and user research planned
March 2019 User research on current process

Map to be service design based around user needs

Plan second round of user research

Carry out user research to test ‘to be’ service design

Iterate the ‘to be’ service design

Insight report of user needs

‘To be’ service design

User research round 2 completed

V2 ‘to be’ service design

End of  March 2019 Write up and share the project findings:

  • Business case
  • User research report
  • Recommendation report
  • Show and tell
Discovery outputs produced and shared


The process is currently paper based, where forms are either sent out or printed from the internet by the applicant.  There is a cost of printing, posting and once received re-typing into systems, assigning to the correct team and then processing the application.  There is often similar FOI requests already published. The current process is designed around the business needs and not the users needs. There are potential cost savings by streamlining the service.

The assigning of the FOI to the relevant champion within the organisation is often difficult where FOI cross more than one business area, these need to be coordinated.  These lead to delays in responses to users, we are looking to improve the customer experience.

We have no understanding if the public can find what they need on the website, do they look through published FOI to see if there questions have already been answered. We have no understanding of what an FOI costs the council, we would discover this through baseline data gathering.

The back office process is manually intensive and needs workflow implementing and digitising.  There are too many delays, re printing of information and hand delivering responses for sign off before they sent back to the users.

There is currently no feedback to users as to where they are in the process so we get additional contacts asking for updates. This project would benefit applicants and local authorities.  We would be willing to share experiences and the discovery outcome with other authorities about what we’ve learned during the discovery project.

The North of Tyne councils have a full range of demographics from a city and towns to small hamlets and villages. There is an opportunity for others to join this project as it will benefit all other local authorities.

We plan on having weekly ‘standups’ or hangouts/calls to discuss progress, what has gone well, what hasn’t, next fortnights sprints and what resources we need to deliver to the schedule.

We will agree agile sprints together, make sure they are achievable and can be resourced across the North Of Tyne councils, sharing resources and expertise.

We will use the same templates and write up results as one project, which will be openly shared for all other local authorities to use.  These could then be built on by others with the opportunity for others to join with us.

We could possibly do joined up user research or at watch over hangouts, to ensure we have enough people to do insight note taking.

By April 2019 we will produce the following outputs:

Output Action
Project Management To run a project using Agile methodology. It would be an excellent opportunity to learn with our partners how to manage agile projects.
Business case We will gather the information and data from our partner councils.  We will use an intelligence officer to analyse the data and provide information and intelligence to aid evidence based decision-making and service transformation. We will assign the relevant resources to ensure this project is delivered on time.
User research report We will publish all our user research insights with our partners.  We will use templates that were provided as part of the GDS verify local user research training.  A user research report which highlights the pain points in the user journey to influence the Alpha phase and system prototype for the project.  It will show what the users needs are at each stage of the journey.
A summary report & recommendations We will produce a report with recommendations on how to take this project forward to alpha.
Redesigned service map We will create the ‘as is’ process map and ‘to be’ service design.  This could be used in Alpha to create the prototype of the system.
Engagement Engage with current solution provider to see if there are opportunities to work together to create a better experience for the user.



Our project will begin with customer journey mapping over the phone. The FOI service area will be able to identify recent applicants whom we can speak too.

We will look try and speak to users who have just accessed the service to find out:

Their customer journey

Understand their pain points,

likes and dislikes about the process

Gain insights

how and where they were accessing the service.  

To get a better view of how they would like to access the service and what their needs are.

We will then create the service ‘to be’ design and perform a second round of user research in discovery. We will endeavour to include varying demographics to ensure we understand how different people want to use the service and the information they need to have a successful application.

The second round of the user research we plan to get users to create an FOI request, navigate the website to the relevant page and complete the application.  Talking us through their thoughts and feelings while carrying out the task. We will iterate the service ‘to be’ design based on these insights.

  • Access to GDS user research labs and research expertise
  • Access to courses of Agile /delivery manager/ business analyst training for the whole team/partners locally at Longbenton..  So we all start from the same point.
  • Support in sending comms and outputs to wider audiences
  • Help with engaging with other county councils that may want to feed into our project.
  • Support to ensure the momentum of the project and that all collaborators are actively contributing to the project.
  • Support  and guidance when we need it.
  • Develop documentation templates so we have a consistent approach to the project


North of Tyne has not applied for any funding previously for this project.