Government digital ID system 'failing users'

Written by Hannah McGrath
08/05/2019

GOV.UK Verify, the government’s flagship digital ID service, is not delivering value for money and has left the public beset by problems with sign up and access to online services, according to an influential committee of MPs.

A damning report from the Public Accounts Committee found that three years after it went live, the initial plan for the service had proved over-optimistic, with key targets “badly” missed and results not delivered.

The Verify service, which assigns users a digital identity to use across a range of government services, has so far been adopted by 19 online government websites, amounting to less than half of the services that had been expected to have access by now, the report stated.

In addition, just 3.9 million people have signed up as Verify users, less than one-sixth of the forecast 25 million users by 2020. Some of the most vulnerable people using the system - such as those applying for Universal Credit - are among the worst affected, the report said. Only around half of people who attempt to sign up to Verify succeed in doing so in a single attempt.

Despite over 20 internal and external reviews, the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Cabinet Office have failed to get the programme on track, the MPs said.

It also cast doubt over the continued viability of the service, noting that six months after announcing that public funding would stop in March 2020, GDS and the Cabinet Office have not resolved major uncertainties about how Verify will operate beyond that date.

Compared to its original estimate of £2.5 billion of benefits over 10 years, GDS is now estimating £366 million of benefits over Verify’s lifetime, a “striking reduction” which the committee said raised questions over the validity of benefits claimed, given that the National Audit Office could not replicate the benefits using data supplied by GDS.

Commenting on the report, Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the committee, said: “Three years after GOV.UK Verify was introduced, the system is failing its users and struggling to meet key targets - key government departments do not want to use the system and members of the public are facing problems signing up.

“Once again, the government has not delivered on a project that was over-ambitious from the start," she continued. "The government has now decided to stop public funding to Verify in 2020. Before then, it has a duty to get this programme working properly for existing users, such as people claiming Universal Credit, and set out a plan of action for when public funding ends.”