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The government’s online services portal, Gov.uk, has seen 69 new services launched during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a blog post, head of Gov.uk at the Government Digital Service (GDS), Jen Allum, said the portal has seen unprecedented demand during the pandemic, with more than 132 million weekly page visits at its peak.
She said that Gov.uk has been “at the centre of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, providing vital and up-to-date information and services”.
“We have worked across the public sector, including with colleagues in the NHS and local authorities, to build and launch services – from scratch – in just days, to help people receive essential supplies and to help organisations offer their support,” Allum said.
“Departments across government have delivered 69 live user-facing services since the start of the coronavirus emergency so far. Another 46 such services and products are in the pipeline for delivery too.”
This includes services such as HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) job retention scheme, where those who have been furloughed by their companies during the coronavirus crisis can get up to 80% of their wages paid by the government.
The scheme launched on 20 April, and 140,000 employers made claims on behalf of one million workers in the first day.
In her blog post, Allum said that the Covid-19 response has required the Gov.uk team to “respond rapidly to people’s needs, while providing robust and resilient digital infrastructure”.
Much of the work that has been done during the pandemic builds on work that has already been done on existing services.
Adoption rates of public-facing digital services in the UK had been growing consistently well before the pandemic. According to numbers from the Institute for Government, there has been a 350% increase in unique interactions with Gov.uk since 2014, driven by citizen demand, as well as user-centric design and improved responsiveness.
“GDS is now providing transactional services too, but ones that sit across departmental boundaries. This is about getting the right support to the right people across complex processes and larger topic areas, and working to remove silos in service delivery,” Allum said.
“For example, businesses are now able to register that they wish to help the coronavirus response by submitting their details on Gov.uk, and people who are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ category can indicate on Gov.uk if they need a free food parcel, a priority supermarket slot, or similar.”
The personalisation work taking place on Gov.uk has been a priority for a while, and is likely to increase as the government continues to add more services online, particularly those which reach across several departments.
“It’s about helping people navigate the site as quickly and effortlessly as possible and ensuring we can proactively support their needs, without them needing to understand the structures of government, or explicitly know what they are looking for,” Allum said.
“Achieving this will take a huge cross-government effort to see through, but firstly with Brexit and now with coronavirus we have demonstrated how essential it is.”