GOV.UK Verify coverage up but younger adults still hard to reach

A survey has shown that the identities of 79% of people aged over 16 can be verified through the government’s flagship identity-assurance scheme, with coverage worst for those aged 16-24.

Those aged 16 to 24 are less likely to be covered by evidence used for identity verification – Photo credit: Flickr, Fredrico Osorio 

GOV.UK Verify – which went live in May this year – sees certified companies verify people’s identities, with the aim of allowing them to access a range of government services without registering multiple times, and to cut down on work for departments by allowing this to be done online.

The last time its coverage was assessed was in January, when the Government Digital Service estimated that 73% of people could be verified by the certified companies.

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The verification process consists of five steps, which include capturing and validating the evidence that the identity exists, establishing a link between the person and the identity and ensuring that the identity has been active for a certain period of time, for instance regular bank transactions.

The government wants to see 90% of those who need to use Verify – for instance for council tax payments – being able to do so by the end of the year. This is a revision of a previous target, set in January 2016, which said 90% coverage was achievable by April.

In a blogpost, Richard Higson and Kyran Dale from GDS said that the target date had changed because it had taken longer to make some of the improvements to Verify than planned.

The data used for the assessment is gathered from the Office for National Statistics’ omnibus survey, and Higson and Dale also said that the latest work had added more items of evidence to demonstrate your identity to the survey.

Previously it asked questions about just 12 items of evidence, when there are more than 50 types that can be used in practice – which the pair said would have “greatly underestimated” coverage. The latest survey now has a further eight items.

Target groups

The latest survey estimated that certified companies can verify 86% of people aged 25-64, with younger people – aged 16 to 24 – being the least likely to have the evidence needed to verify them.

Higson and Dale said that they estimate 50% of people in this age bracket don’t have enough evidence to use Verify, which is often because they aren’t carrying out the financial transactions, such as mortgages, that generate evidence of activity history.

Meanwhile, those aged over 75 are also less well-represented, with 66% coverage, as they are less likely to have evidence such as photocard driving licences, required.

Another factor affecting verification coverage is personal income – with those earning less than £10,400 having a 67% chance of being covered, compared with 94% for those earning more than £28,600.

However, Higson and Dale said that the biggest challenge for increasing Verfiy coverage was activity history, where the evidence certified companies currently use only covers about 82% of people.

Both GDS and the certified companies are working on using different forms of evidence and new ways of proving activity history.

A recent Open Identity Exchange study suggested that the public was becoming more accepting of the idea of using Facebook and other online accounts to verify their identities.

Using such accounts would provide a different way of establishing identity activity history, as evidence suggests that 52% of UK adults have a social media account they use at least once a month. The study estimated this could increase coverage by 38% of people between 16 and 25.

The news of the increased coverage came days after the Verify programme lost its director Janet Hughes, who announced her departure on 16 August, saying that as the project had entered a “new phase” it was “time for the team to change”.

Commenting on the news of Hughes’ departure, Jessica Figueras, chief analyst at Kable, told PublicTechnology that the new team would “need staying power and political guile if they are to deliver on its long-term potential”.


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