Response 62486248

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Blackwood Homes and Care


1. Do you agree that freedom of information legislation should be extended to Registered Social Landlords, as proposed in this consultation paper?

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Ticked No

2. Freedom of Information can be extended to organisations that undertake ‘functions of a public nature’. You may wish to provide comments on how you consider that RSLs undertake functions of a public nature, for example, with reference to the factors referred to earlier in the consultation paper.

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Blackwood is a housing provider, with properties spread across Scotland. If this service was not provided a public authority would have to perform it. However, this would be through commission other providers in most cases. This is particularly so in the current care market. Blackwood is also a care provider. If the FOI is introduced it would be imperative to create a level playing field in this market, by applying it equally to any organisation that is commissioned to provide a care service. It is important to ensure that organisation which provides both housing and care are not at a disadvantage compared to other private care providers. There may also be a competitive disadvantage, where care providers who are not subject to FOI could obtain commercial information about our care provision, which we in turn would not be able to obtain from them. We emphasise our commitment to openness and transparency in a proportionate manner. It is the overall administrative impact and the potential commercial impact on our Care Services which concerns us. If these concerns are addresses then the extension of FOI would fit with our values and principles.

3. The proposed order would be expected to come into force on 1 April 2018. Do you consider this a reasonable timescale, allowing for preparation for inclusion?

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Ticked No
If not, you may wish to indicate what timescale you feel would be more appropriate and why.
We do not feel that the proposed timescales are reasonable. This is for two reasons. The first is that the consultation provides no indication of how much time would be available for preparation and implementation prior to 1 April 2018. With a decision at Scottish Government to be taken first, and an Order to be laid, there is a fear that the time available to organisations to implement FOI would be minimal . We would suggest 1 April 2019 for this to come into force as a more reasonable timeframe. This would also allow time to understand what support / resources could be made available to organisations to help with the implementation – at present budgets are already set for 17-18, and like many organisations we have no resource budgeted for preparation. April 2019 would allow more time to address both issues if required. The second reason is that the circumstances around the ONS reclassification have yet to be clarified. It appears to us that it would be appropriate to know more about the inter-related impacts before moving to implement FOI.

4. We would welcome comments on the draft partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment provided at Annex A.

As this is a draft partial document, we feel that there is limited comment that can be provided. Our main concern is around the time involved and the impact that this will have on resources. We wish to focus our resources on providing a service to customers. Unless the administrative burden is fully recognised, we are concerned that it could have a direct impact on our customers. As referenced in point 4.13 this may be particularly problematic in the first year. There is also a question relating to scale. A small organisation will have to follow the same process as a large organisation and this will have a greater administrative and financial burden on smaller organisations with less resource available. No budget has been set for the implementation of FOI – any costs incurred will have to be passed on to our customers through rent costs. If FOI also applies to our care services we are concerned that there is no provision within what are already very low margins commissioned through Health and Social Care partnerships. We feel that 4.18 requires more explanation on how this conclusion was reached and what evidence there is to support this statement. Competition assessment – we would require significant assurance on how this would relate to the overall business including care.

5. We would welcome comments on how these proposals might impact on ‘Equality Groups’ i.e. in respect of age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexuality, children’s rights etc. Comments will inform the Equalities Impact Assessment and Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment to be completed following consultation.

Blackwood welcomes openness for all equality groups but emphasise that this must be used positively.