As a private individual, it is not always easy to know where to turn when dealing with the Swedish authorities. Municipalities, county councils and state authorities make decisions on matters concerning individuals or companies and the public. Many decisions affect you personally and can also be appealed to the courts.
Contact with public authorities can take place through personal visits, written correspondence, via the Internet or through direct telephone calls to the relevant authorities and organisations.
State authorities have an obligation to provide services to citizens and are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (the principle of unrestricted public access to official documents). This is governed by the Public Administration Act. The municipal school is one such authority. Note that independent schools are not subject to the freedom of information act and do not have the same obligation to provide services as municipal schools does.
Authorities’ service obligation
Authorities are there to provide service to citizens and have a far-reaching service obligation, which means, among other things, that the authorities must help you and make it easier for you when you are in contact with them. They have a far-reaching obligation to help you and provide you with services.
Each authority must, within its area of activity, provide information, guidance, advice and other such assistance to individuals. The help must be provided to the extent appropriate to the nature of the question, the individual’s need for help and the authority’s activities. The service obligation applies regardless of whether the individual requests assistance or not.
As an individual, you can always contact an authority and request information about the rules that apply to your case. The authority must provide you with guidance, advice and information. Moreover, the authorities should also tell you what actions or benefits you can apply for.
In Sweden, the Freedom of Information Act applies, which means that all documents held by an authority are public documents and everyone is entitled to request copies of them. Exceptions apply to documents that are protected by secrecy.
The website Allmän handling contains information about what you can request and how to proceed. For example, you can email your school and request information on how the school intends to implement a new curriculum. The school is then obliged to respond to such a request
How to appeal
If individuals receive an unfavourable decision by an authority, they can appeal this decision to a court, normally the administrative court of first instance. You can also appeal against an authority’s decision to deny you a public document. An authority is obliged to help you prepare an appeal if you are unable to do so yourself.
Free of charge
There are usually no costs associated with contacting the authorities. If you choose to appeal a decision, you will receive instructions on how to proceed. And if you lose a dispute with an authority, it does not mean that you must pay the authority’s costs. Thus, in most cases, a dispute with an authority will be free of charge.
There are several ways to report an authority and individual officials who you believe have acted in breach of the law. The simplest option is to make a report to the Justitieombudsmannen (JO), that is the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, who supervise the authorities.
You can also write a letter directly to the authority’s director general (who is usually a political appointee). You can email the registrar and ask for contact details.
If you believe that you have suffered damage because of the improper exercise of authority, you can apply to the Justitiekanslern for compensation.
The non-profit organisation Centrum för Rättvisa helps individuals who have suffered a violation of their human rights or freedoms. Their website contains several interesting legal cases.