GOV.UK Verify use soars during pandemic

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has reported a significant rise in the number of people signing up to use the GOV.UK Verify digital identity service.

However, the claim follows reports that it was told not to take on any more central government services and that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has begun working on its alternative service.

Michael Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office, indicated last month the government had extended its support of Verify - which was due to have its funding ended at the end of March - by 18 months, in order to deal with the surge of applications for universal credit as a result of the Coronavirus.

GDS said it was taking steps to improve the resilience of the system, adding that since 16 March over 640,000 new accounts have been created – equating to more than double the average weekly figure of 35,000 before the pandemic.

It attributed this partly to changes in the processes managed by identity providers Digidentity and the Post Office, under which they scaled up their shared technology platform, brought forward the use of an app to scan the chip from a passport for identity verification, and employed more people to carry out manual checks when needed.

Verify's long term prospects are still uncertain, as HM Treasury extended funding only on condition that it will not be taken up by a new service beyond those that already use it; and that alternatives must be sought during the 18-month period.

Simon McKinnon, chief digital and information officer at DWP, indicated that it was accelerating work on a new online ID verification system, Confirm Your Identity, which was originally planned for September of this year.

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