Seven firms chosen to provide government's Identity Assurance service

Seven firms have been chosen to provide the Identity Assurance service required for applicants to the new Universal Credit welfare scheme

Seven firms have been chosen to provide the Identity Assurance service required for benefit applicants to the new Universal Credit welfare scheme.

The Post Office, Cassidian, Digidentity, Experian, Ingeus, Mydex, and Verizon will deliver secure online identity registration services for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The suppliers were chosen from 44 bidders for the project, and the value of the 18-month framework contracts will be £25m.

The Identity Assurance (IDA) scheme will allow benefit claimants to choose who will validate their identity by automatically checking their authenticity with the provider before processing online benefit claims.

The service is expected to become the standard for accessing online public services as more web-based systems are created as part of the government's digital strategy.

Government sources had previously suggested there would be eight IDA providers, who were due to be announced on 22 October, with names such as PayPal and BT being mentioned – neither of whom made the final list. Delays in that announcement were rumoured to be down to final discussions with suppliers.

Minister for welfare reform Lord Freud said: “We are working with cyber security experts to ensure we are clear about the threats to the online process and we are confident that the providers announced today will offer an effective, safe and free-to-use identity service for future online benefit claims.”

Under IDA, the private sector providers will deliver a service to verify a user's identity and store their relevant personal details. When the user accesses an online public service, the website will connect to their chosen IDA provider to authenticate their details.

The aim is that users will only have to give their details to one provider, and those details will be secured with a single username and password rather than having to use multiple sites with different usernames.

The DWP initially put out a tender worth £200m for identity services, but Government Digital Service director Mike Bracken pulled that tender, and instead issued a new one for just £25m.

IDA is a critical element of Universal Credit, the government's flagship welfare reform programme, although it has been taken out of the early trials, due to start in April. Earlier this week, reports suggested that the project is over budget and running late due to IT problems. Several of the key programme leaders have left the project in recent weeks.

Universal Credit is also the biggest test of the government's intention to use more agile software development methods for its major IT projects.

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