Government and Information Rights Directorate: COVID-19 information hub for public record bodies

This hub is intended to provide guidance and support for government departments and other public bodies subject to the Public Records Act throughout the pandemic. We have brought together our most ‘frequently asked questions’ and advice in one place to support you. This hub was last updated on 20 July 2021. 

If your query is not covered below or you have further questions, please contact us at GovernmentHelpPoint@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Update to The National Archives’ services for the public

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that England will move to step 4 of the government’s roadmap on Monday 19 July, we wanted to update you concerning our services.  

Our public reading rooms are open. Please see here for the latest details on our services. 

Our Government and Remote Services Team are accepting requests for access to documents from government departments. Should you need to access this service please contact Government and Remote Services at government@nationalarchives.gov.uk for further information and support. 

20-year rule and transition planning – support

If you would like to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your current transition timetable and planning (including support for any retention applications to the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives), please contact us via our Government Help Point.

Are you accepting paper transfers?

Transfers will be accepted with a minimum of one week’s notice following completion of all the necessary transfer documentation.  Please contact governmenttransfers@nationalarchives.gov.uk. 

Digital Transfer

Please contact us via governmenttransfers@nationalarchives.gov.uk if you have digital records you would like to discuss.

Services for Inquests, Inquiries and Investigations

If you are a government inquiry or are aware of a collection at risk, please contact our Government Help Point. We are providing our usual services for inquests, inquiries and investigations this includes access requests. Please contact our Government Help Point for further support.

How to access the following services: access to records via onsite viewing, recall of an original record, copying or scanning of records.

Authorised Requestors can arrange access to records via onsite viewing, or the recall of originals documents or order scanning or copying of records via our usual method (cost recovery fees apply). Please contact Government and Remote Services at government@nationalarchives.gov.uk for further information and support.

Records currently on requisition

Our Government and Remote Services Team are able to facilitate the return of records currently out on requisition. Please contact Government and Remote Services at government@nationalarchives.gov.uk for further information and support.

What’s happening at Places of Deposit?

Detailed guidance on Place of Deposit arrangements at this time can be found at here 

If you have any further enquiries, please email asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Are you capturing the Government response to COVID-19?

Through our web archiving capability (UK Government Web Archive) we are continuing to archive all key communications from the Government about COVID-19 as part of the public record. This includes GOV.UK, NHS.UK and government communications on social media. 

As an event of significant international interest, we would expect departments and other bodies to appraise and select records relating to COVID-19 for permanent preservation in line with their responsibilities under the Public Records Act. 

Are there any safety precautions that I should be taking or planning around physical records?

Please continue to care for your records in the usual way. However, if you have any specific treatment concerns, please email our Government Help Point and we will work with you on a case by case basis.

What is the impact to the Freedom of Information service and The National Archives’ Section 66 responsibilities?

The Freedom of Information service has continued to operate during the various lockdowns and building closures but depending on the type of the enquiry (e.g. archival closed records) our response may continue to be delayed. Processing of FOI requests for our archival collections will be slower than normal – the main limitation on our service and ability to address requests relates to ongoing restricted access to the physical collection during this time, due to on site COVID-secure workplace measures.  

We are continuing to consult with government departments and other public record bodies with regards to FOIAs for historical records, and we will liaise with our main contacts to understand how to manage any limitations. 

We have already implemented new ways of working (agreements – MOUs) to account for the restrictions that remain in place, and we hope that this will help us to successfully conclude more FOIAs within compliance. Longer term we will continue to look to implement more solutions that allow us to continue to work remotely on a regular basis; for example, providing more information digitally to account for these changing working practices. 

We will continue to consult the guidance issued by Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Further information from the Information Commissioner and the Scottish Information Commissioner on COVID-19 can be found at:

Freedom of Information: https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/icos-blog-on-its-information-rights-work/

Data Protection: https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protection-and-coronavirus-information-hub/

Scottish Information Commissioner: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/home/News/Latest_news.aspx

What is happening with training, events and user groups?

We have been able to deliver training through the GKIM bite-size sessions and our e-learning is available via our website. Our M365 and Google Government Knowledge and Information Management (GKIM) user groups continue to operate virtually. Notifications have been sent out via our usual channels. For further information please contact our Government Help Point.