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NOTE: If you wish to contact the Department with any questions about social welfare schemes or services you should contact the relevant scheme area or the Information Services Section. (View Dept Social Protection Contact Details)

1. Access to Information under the Act

The FOI Act provides that since 21 April 1998, every person has the following legal rights:

  • the right to access official records held by Government Departments or certain other public bodies;
  • the right to have personal information held on them corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading; and
  • the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies that affect them.

These rights mean that people can seek access to personal information held on them no matter when the information was created, and to other records created after 21 April 1998. Access to information under the Act is subject to certain exemptions and involves specific procedures and time limits.

2. Making a Request

Applications should be in writing and should indicate that the records are being sought under the FOI Act. If the information is desired in a particular form i.e. photocopy, this should be mentioned in the application. Please give as much detail as possible to enable staff of the Department to identify the records sought. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records that you require, the staff of the Department will be happy to assist you in preparing your request.

Personal Requests - information relating to an identifiable individual, only known to the individual or family. 
Non-Personal Requests - broadly concerning work of a public body e.g. statistics, reports, policy, briefs. 
Mixed Requests - element of both personal and non-personal category of request combined.

3. Where to Submit a Request

Personal Request for information on your claim(s)

Staff have been appointed in each business area of the Department to decide FOI requests.

Applications for specific claim records should be directed to 'the FOI Officer' in the relevant scheme area who dealt with your claim i.e. the Local Office or Headquarter office your claim was processed in. Please click here.

If you are unsure where to submit your request, it can be submitted to the FOI Unit (address below) who will redirect it. You may also contact the FOI Unit by telephone/e-mail for further details.

The Department does not recommend sending personal or confidential information by email.
Please note that the Department cannot guarantee that any personal and sensitive data, is fully secure. Customers who choose to use this channel are deemed to have accepted any risk involved. If you have any concerns for the safety of your personal and confidential information as regards email then please consider sending the information by mail or registered mail.

When you make a request for personal information you may be required to provide some form of identification such as a public service card to ensure information is only provided to those entitled to it.


Non-Personal/Mixed Records

Requests for access to non-personal/mixed records should be forwarded to:

Freedom of Information Unit
Social Welfare Services Office
Shannon Lodge
Co Leitrim

E-mail: foi@welfare.ie

Telephone: (071) 9672544 or (071) 9672547.

NOTE: If you require general information regarding any of the Benefit or Allowance Schemes operated by the Department you should contact the Scheme Area or Information Services Unit:
Locall: 189066 22 44
Fax: (071) 9193284
Email: info@welfare.ie
Information Section
Social Welfare Services
College Road
Please also note information is available on the Department’s website www.welfare.ie.
Multifaceted or voluminous FOI requests attract fees.
To reduce potential fees for search and retrieval and photocopying of records, please ensure the request is specific and if possible targeted at one business area of the Department.

4. Fees

Upfront fees

An upfront fee no longer applies to Non-Personal or Mixed Requests since 14 October 2014.

Search and Retrieval/Photocopying fees (from 14 October 2014):

Fees may be charged in respect of the time spent in locating and copying records, based on a standard hourly rate of €20.00 for search and retrieval and €0.04 for copying per page. The first 5 hours (€100) of search and retrieval is free. Once the charge exceeds €100, fees apply.

There is a cap on the amount of search and retrieval and copying fees that can be charged of €500 (25 hours approx) i.e. an FOI request that costs €650 is charged at €500. There is a further upper limit on estimated search and retrieval and copying fees at €700 (35 hours) above which an FOI body can refuse to process the request, unless you are prepared to refine the request to bring the search and retrieval and copying fees below the limit.

A deposit is payable where the total fee for search and retrieval is likely to exceed €100. In these circumstances, the Department will notify you.

5. Third Party Information

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where the Department invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to the deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be the subject of appeal.

6. Internal Review

If you are dissatisfied with the initial decision, you may seek an internal review which will be carried out by an official at a higher level in the Department. You may also seek an internal review if you have not received a reply within 4 weeks of your initial application.

A request for internal review must be submitted within 4 weeks of the initial decision (or the date the decision was due in the case of non-reply). The Department must complete the review within 3 weeks.

There is no upfront fee for a request for a review in relation to personal records. However, a fee of €30 must accompany most applications for internal review of a decision in relation to non-personal records. A reduced fee of €10 applies if you are covered by a medical card. There is no fee payable for cases where a review is sought due to the non-reply of the initial request.

7. Appeal by the Information Commissioner

Following completion of internal review, you may seek independent review of the decision by the Information Commissioner. Also, if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Commissioner. The Commissioner's decision is final and can only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law.

Appeals to the Information Commissioner should be made in writing to the following address:

Office of the Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Dublin 2

There is no upfront fee for a request for an appeal in relation to personal records. However, a fee of €50 must accompany most applications for review by the Information Commissioner in relation to non-personal records. A reduced fee of €15 applies if you are covered by a medical card. There is no fee payable for cases where an appeal is being sought due to the non-reply of the internal review request.

8. Routinely Available Information

The Department of Social Protection has always made information routinely available to the public in relation to its functions, activities and schemes.

The Department is committed to ensuring that staff making decisions, do so with full knowledge of the relevant legislation and regulations and that the basis for those decisions is clearly explained to customers. Such information is available informally without the need to use the FOI Act.

The FOI Act is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies which is NOT routinely available through other sources.

9. Confidentiality of Information

The Department of Social Protection undertakes to treat as confidential any information provided to it by individuals or others on a confidential basis, subject to the Department's obligations under law, including the Freedom of Information Act. Any persons supplying information to the Department that they wish to have treated as confidential should state this when providing the information and state the reasons for its sensitivity. The Department will consult with any individual or body so supplying sensitive information before making a decision on any Freedom of Information request received.

List of Freedom of Information Contacts within the Department

Last modified:12/02/2016

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