Case number: 120117

Whether, in accordance with section 18 of the FOI Act, the Council has provided an adequate statement of reasons for its decision to refuse a request for a
transfer based on medical grounds

Review Application to the Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 & 2003

Background

On 12 March 2012, the applicant applied to the Council under section 18 of the FOI Act for a written explanation of the reasons for its decision to refuse to offer her a transfer under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, based on medical grounds. The Council provided a statement of reasons in its decision of 11 April 2012. The applicant applied for an internal review and in its response of 15 May 2012, the Council affirmed its original decision and stated that it was "totally compliant" with the applicant's Freedom of Information request. On 23 May 2012, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of the Council's decision.

During the course of the review, Mr Edmund McDaid of this Office informed the Council of his preliminary view that the statement contained in the Council's original decision was not sufficient to meet the requirements of section 18 in this case. He suggested that a more comprehensive statement, based on the contents of the Council's submission of 4 July 2012 to this Office, should issue. The Council subsequently issued a statement to the applicant, a copy of which was forwarded by the Council to this Office.

Mr McDaid subsequently wrote to the applicant outlining his preliminary view that the Council had provided an adequate statement of reasons and invited her to settle the review. As no response was received, I consider that the review should now be brought to a close by the issue of a formal, binding decision.

Scope of Review

The scope of this review is confined solely to the question of whether the revised statement of reasons issued by the Council is adequate for the purposes of section 18 of the FOI Act.

Findings

Section 18 of the FOI Act provides that a person who is affected by an act of a public body and has a material interest in a matter affected by the act, or to which it relates, is entitled to a statement of reasons for the act and of any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of that act. The role of this Office in such cases is confined to deciding whether the public body has complied with the requirements imposed on it by section 18.

The main characteristic of an adequate statement of reasons is that it should be intelligible and adequate, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case. The statement should be sufficiently clear to enable the requester to understand without undue difficulty why the public body acted as it did.

As outlined above, the applicant sought a written explanation of the reasons for the Council's decision to refuse to offer her a transfer under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, based on medical grounds. The Council's revised statement explained the relevant criteria considered in the applicant's transfer application. Among other things, the Council explained that the documents which the applicant supplied from her GP concerning her son's medical condition in support of her transfer application were forwarded to the Council's Medical Officer for a decision as to whether or not her son's condition entitled her to be considered for a transfer. The statement explains that the Medical Officer reported that her son's condition was one which could be met through the provision of standard accommodation and did not award medical priority. It explains that as the Council was satisfied that the applicant's housing need is currently being met in standard accommodation, the Council decided that the applicant was not eligible for a transfer on medical grounds

Having considered the statement provided by the Council, it is my view that it explains adequately, in a clear and intelligible manner, why the Council acted as it did and I find that it comprises a statement of reasons which is sufficient to meet the Council's obligations under section 18 of the Act.

Decision

I find that the statement of reasons provided by the Council in this case is adequate for the purposes of compliance with section 18 of the FOI Act.

Right of Appeal

A party to a review, or any other person affected by a decision of the Information Commissioner following a review, may appeal to the High Court on a point of law arising from the decision. Such an appeal must be initiated not later than eight weeks from the date of on which notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.


Stephen Rafferty
Senior Investigator
24 September 2012