HMRC reiterates Verify support beyond Gateway revamp
Department maintains it will not end support for the Government Digital Service (GDS)-developed GOV.UK Verify platform in favour of separate system that can serve business and individual users
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said users of its online services “will be able” to continue to use GOV.UK Verify to access their accounts, even once it has developed an in-house ID assurance solution for businesses and agents.
The new system, which is designed as a direct replacement for the outgoing Government Gateway launched in 2001 as the solution for businesses and agents to prove their identity to access government services, will also be able to serve individual users, the department has said.
Set to be introduced in 2018 once the previous Government Gateway system is phased out, HMRC confirmed last month it had taken over responsibility for the legacy technology in order to introduce its replacement. This has led to speculation that the role of Verify, which allows an individual to select one of several pre-chosen companies to perform a check on their identity in order to access government online services at a low to medium level of assurance (LOA) 2, could be replaced entirely for HMRC users.
However, the department has maintained that it would not be ending support for the Government Digital Service (GDS)-developed Verify. Other departments remain required to make use of the technology for individual users wishing to access services online at the behest of the Cabinet Office.
“HMRC customers, as well as customers for other government departments, will be able to continue using Verify to access their accounts. There are no plans to change this currently” said the department in a statement.
“On Government Gateway, we have agreed with DWP to take on responsibility for the service, with a goal to build the next version. Unlike Verify, this will be used by business and agent-facing services only, rather than individuals.” Five of the department’s services currently support GOV.UK Verify.
In a blog issued today, Mike Howes-Roberts, HMRC’s programme director responsible for transforming Government Gateway, discussed the department’s plans for the system.
“Government Gateway has been a critical piece of UK government infrastructure. It has enabled individuals, businesses and agents to prove their identity to use online government services (user authentication), and it’s fundamental to government transformation as digital take-up continues to increase,” he said.
Howes-Roberts claimed that with the current contract set to expire next year, the Government Gateway was presently used to support 123 live digital government services, equal to an estimated 406 million yearly authentications on average.
As part of developing the new solution, HMRC is also considering opportunities for wider Whitehall take-up as long as it does not interfere with Verify.
“This would be restricted to business and agent-facing services only as Cabinet Office will require other departments to use GOV.UK Verify for any citizen-facing services where customers need to prove their identity,” said the department in a previous statement.
While the Cabinet Office has in the past touted the platform as a means of eventually supporting secure access to all online government services, former government ID assurance head Janet Hughes last year said it was intended solely for accessing individual customer-facing functions.
Just last week Whitehall published a broad transformation strategy that set out the delayed aims for the Government Digital Service (GDS) over the next three years, including ambitions for data sharing and online service take up.
Under the strategy, GDS hopes to expand use of the identity assurance platform to 25 million public sector users by 2020 from just around one million accounts at present.
Having been classified as a live service last year, GOV.UK Verify continues to undergo development to try and improve the service in a number of key areas including usage figures and the rates of successful creation and reuse of certified accounts.
Based on the government’s own performance figures for the platform, the service completion rate, defined as the proportion of visits to GOV.UK Verify that result in successful user sign-in or account creation, has ranged between 63% and 46% over the last month.
This factor has traditionally ranged over the last year between 43% and 30%.