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London council trials Verify-based digital ID scheme for vulnerable citizens

Programme under way at Tower Hamlets will allow residents to build a digital footprint and get better access to council services

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is leading a trial that aims to provide online identification and better access to public services for vulnerable citizens who lack a digital footprint.

In partnership with the Government Digital Service (GDS), the Post Office, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and technology supplier Etive, the council aims to provide access to services through the project, which is fully interoperable with Gov.UK’s flagship identity scheme Verify.

Under the beta project, which follows discovery and alpha projects, data from the local authority is collected and stored in Etive’s platform, dubbed the Digital Log Book (DLB). The DLB will then be used by the Post Office to create digital identity accounts that meet the government’s criteria.

These accounts will allow Tower Hamlets’ vulnerable residents to get access to a range of services, with first use cases including housing, education and employment.    

“Often, applications for services require a lot of effort and information, so avoiding having to duplicate that time and again really helps to simplify the process,” said Martin Edwards, identity services managing director at the Post Office.

“Sharing information just once removes unnecessary barriers and makes it much easier for people to access key services.”

The Tower Hamlets project comes as Verify has suffered under heavy criticism from MPs for missing targets and “failing its users”, three years after it was introduced.

Read more about Gov.uk Verify

A highly critical report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), released earlier this month, slammed the embattled system, which it said has been “hampered by a catalogue of problems”, with many users unable to access the government services they want.

The biggest customer for Verify is Universal Credit, the controversial DWP benefit reform programme . But only 38% of applicants can successfully use Verify when claiming benefits, compared to the original target of 90%. As a result, the DWP expects to spend about £40m over 10 years on processing applications for Universal Credit manually.

The GDS is expected to explain to MPs how it will deal with Verify’s failings before the summer parliamentary recess.

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