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. We have brought together our most ‘frequently asked questions’ and advice in one place to support you. This hub was last updated on 9 March 2022.

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

Our building is open including our public reading rooms and exhibition spaces. Please see our Visit Us page for latest opening information. In line with government guidance we recommend the wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces.

Our Government and Remote Services Team are operating as usual, including accepting requests for access to documents from government departments and return of documents from government departments. Should you need to access this service please contact Government and Remote Services 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.

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, contact our Government Help Point.

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

Authorised requestors can arrange access to records via on site 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 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 for further information and support.

What’s happening at Places of Deposit? ASD update

Detailed guidance on Place of Deposit arrangements at this time can be found on the Information for Places of Deposit page. If you have any further enquiries, please email asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Are you capturing the Government response to the pandemic?

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?

Our 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, whilst we manage a backlog of requests.

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) 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:

What is happening with training, events and user groups?

We continue 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.