GDS Verify chief Harrison to move back to DWP

Director of service design and assurance leaving post but – contrary to media reports – Kevin Cunnington understood to be remaining in place

The Government Digital Service’s director of service design and assurance Nic Harrison is to leave his post and return to a role at the Department for Work and Pensions, PublicTechnology has learned.

Harrison, whose major responsibility has been overseeing the development and implementation of the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance product, has been with GDS for two years. Prior to which, he worked in digital and cloud roles at the DWP between January 2014 and August 2016.

It is understood he will shortly be leaving GDS to rejoin his former employer, although it is not yet known in what capacity. 

Harrison is the second senior-management figure heading for the GDS exit door in the space of a month, following the news that GOV.UK leader Neil Williams is to take a post at Croydon Council.

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Rumours have also circulated about the future of director general Kevin Cunnington, with online politics and sports betting exchange Smarkets even taking bets on his potential departure date. Media reports published today claimed Cunnington will depart at the close of his contract this summer – but PublicTechnology understands that this is not the case, and Cunnington will be remaining in the hotseat.

Although GDS is still overseeing the rollout of Verify, responsibility for policymaking in the area of digital identity – including Verify and other tools – was recently moved to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Although initial uptake lagged expectations, some 2.7 million people are now signed up to use Verify, with about 40,000 new users registering each week. Earlier this year GDS sought to bring in external developers to help meet its goals for increasing adoption of Verify, which can be used to access 18 government services.  

Sam Trendall

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