Tombaky - Fotolia

GaaP could save local government up to £500m

The Government Digital Service estimates that local public services could save up to £500m annually by using common platforms such as Verify

Local public services could save up to £500m a year by using government as a platform (GaaP) services such as Verify and Notify, according to the Government Digital Service (GDS).

In a document detailing the case for using Verify in local government, GDS said the platform could help councils make services “more convenient, faster and responsive”, have services available 24/7, as well as protecting privacy and ensuring trust.

“We estimate that transforming local services using common platform components, as well as based on common standards, could save the sector between £300m to £500m annually,” the document said.  

“We estimate that if a local authority providing a large number of services that need Verify adopted the above approach, it could achieve savings of £50m to £80m over 10 years on IT spend alone.”

This includes annual savings of £51.6m for single person tax discounts, £12m for blue badges and £13.2m from digital adult social care means testing assessments.

The identity assurance platform, which formally went live in May 2016 for central government services, works by asking users to set up an account with one of a selection of third-party identity providers, such as the Post Office, Experian or Verizon.

Each company then asks the user to prove who they are, using available data such as their credit history or by allowing electronic access to documents such as passports. 

In September 2016, the Government Digital Service (GDS) announced plans to launch two pilot projects and appealed to councils to get involved. By October, 19 councils had signed up to run pilots of the service.

Pilots are now underway for two services – applications for older people’s concessionary travel passes and residents’ parking permits. The pilots are currently in alpha phase, before the private beta testing begins in May.

Private beta, starting in May 2017, pilot participants will integrate and connect their services with Verify. “Following the private beta, we will evaluate the process and our assumptions to inform future scaling of Verify into local government,” the document said. 

“The benefits from the secure digitisation of local authority services will be realised and owned in local authorities. If the pilots are successful, the #VerifyLocal team aims to develop and enable a sustainable approach for connecting at scale local authority services with identity assurance need.”

Read more about Verify

In a blog post detailing the pilots, GDS said at the end of each phase of testing, the organisation is gathering the findings and “turning them into tools that can be understood and used by any local authority”. This includes a user research toolkit, templates and prototypes and technical guidance.

GDS is aiming for 25 million users of Verify by 2020. However, in central government, uptake of the service has not gone as smoothly as envisioned. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is developing its own identity verification service, based on the 15-year-old existing Government Gateway, which is used for individuals and businesses to submit their tax returns. 

The Department for Work and Pensions was initially reluctant to adopt Verify, but is using it in the new digital version of Universal Credit, although that system is in very limited use as part of trials.

However, according to GDS, Verify has already delivered significant savings, claiming that the identity assurance platform has been responsible for “£111.44m National Audit Office [NAO] approved savings”.

GDS is also trying to persuade banks and online gambling firms to consider Verify as a means to identify users.

On 2 March 2017, GDS announced that another one of its platforms, Notify, is ready to be used by all government services needing electronic progress updates for users. 

GDS has run a public beta version of Notify since 2016, which has been available to some government services on an “invitation-only basis”. This included services for people applying online for UK passports or for lasting power of attorney.

Read more on IT for government and public sector