Wrapping lessons

Despite the title, we’re not talking about wrapping presents or a baby in a blanket or anything else that needs wrapping up, we’re talking about Restricted Access Periods – RAPs for short.

If you’ve been following us on twitter and here on the blog, you’ll know we’ve been talking about RAPs and the project we’ve been doing to reduce the number of closed records here at QSA. If you haven’t, check out our blog unwrapping RAPs.

Like we said in our unwrapping RAPs blog, we’re pretty good at RAP’ing (not always the singing kind) but you know your records better than us so will have a better idea if they need to be restricted or not.

Some records are easy to determine the RAP for – like cabinet records as that’s set by legislation. Others are easy to determine which category they fit in (like legal professional privilege, law enforcement), but what RAP should be applied is a bit harder. Then there are the others, what category do you pick for those? What RAP do you apply? Are they sensitive or not, and if so to what degree?

To help you out, we thought we’d go over a few things and some tips you can use to help you determine if a record should be open or closed, and if they need to be closed, then how to determine the best RAP to apply.

Here goes…

  • First, read the advice on the website (if you haven’t already) so you know what’s what when it comes to RAPs. This advice gives you a pretty good overview of RAPs, how they work, when to apply one.
  • Familiarise yourselves with the different levels of sensitivity and the various RAP categories.
  • Also check out the practical guide as this breaks down each category and include examples of what kinds of records could be in each.
  • Look at the RAP form carefully and think about why a particular RAP should be applied – be prepared to write down your reasons for setting a particular RAP
  • When looking at the form think about whether there are exceptional reasons to close the record description (metadata) – be prepared to write down your reasons why they should be closed
  • Think about the level of risk if the information in the record was publicly available – would there be serious consequences if someone knew this or that? Does it put a project or activity or person in jeopardy?
  • Ask yourself, how sensitive is this information? Has that sensitivity decreased because it was a while ago or is it still recent?
  • Who would be affected if and when this information is made publicly available?
  • What information is already available? Is that map you have showing things you can already find on Google maps? Is that photo something anyone can take a photo of? Is that person’s name available through social media or somewhere else? Is the information available publicly online?
  • Is closing the record for this long or that long, or opening it completely, in the best interest of the government and the public? What are the community expectations for this information?
  • How does the particular RAP you want to set support an open and transparent government and allow the public to access government information?

If you’re not sure about the record content or context, or what level of sensitivity applies, talk to the business areas that created or used the records the most – they may be able to give you some extra information to help you determine what the RAP should be.

Keep in mind, most records don’t need a long restricted access period, or might not need one at all, as they don’t contain information about people and are no longer of a sensitive nature once they get transferred to us – remember, records should be inactive when you transfer them so won’t usually be part of an ongoing project or activity, although there are exceptions.

Remember, records should only be restricted to protect sensitive or confidential information, and only for as long as necessary to do so. If access can be given, then we should.

We hope that helps but we’re not finished with RAPs yet. Stay tuned for more as we unpack the personal affairs issue and ask the question ‘to close or not to close item descriptions.

Remember, there is we have advice on the website about all things RAPs, and don’t forget the practical guide you can refer to when setting a RAP. Also check out the other blog posts in the unwrapping RAPs series.

And if you’re still not sure, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

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