This hub is intended to provide guidance and support for government departments and other public bodies subject to the Public Records Act during this pandemic. This hub was last updated on 1 April 2021.
We understand that those working in records and information management may have concerns about how they can continue to meet their statutory obligations, so we have brought together our most frequently asked questions and advice in one place to support you in this. This page is being regularly updated and maintained.
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
We are pleased to confirm that we are planning to re-open our public reading rooms on Tuesday 27 April, in Step 2 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Please see here for the latest details on our services.
While our government reading room has continued to operate throughout the pandemic on a case by case basis, our Government and Remote Services Team is now accepting requests for access to documents from government departments. Should you need to access this service please contact Government and Remote Services at email@example.com 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.
Departmental plans for transfer and release – support
We are continuing to support the development of catalogue lists and other pre-transfer documentation, in line with the arrangements implemented in August 2020. Transfer plans should be made or revised to take account of delays to activities caused by the current situation. Transfers will be accepted with a minimum of one week’s notice following completion of all the necessary transfer documentation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a transfer in progress or if you propose starting one.
Are you accepting paper transfers?
We are continuing to provide the limited transfer arrangements implemented in August 2020. Transfers will be accepted with a minimum of one week’s notice following completion of all the necessary transfer documentation. Please contact email@example.com.
Please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com for further information and support.
Records currently on requisition
Our Government and Remote Services Team is now able to facilitate the return of records currently out on requisition. Please contact Government and Remote Services at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/our-archives-sector-role/coronavirus-update/information-for-places-of-deposit/.
If you have any further enquiries, please email email@example.com.
Are you capturing the Government response to COVID-19?
Through our web archiving capability 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?
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. 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, which we can progress at this current time and we will liaise with our main contacts to understand how to manage the 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/
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.