Department attempts to cope with surging demand by allowing access via legacy system
After Universal Credit claimants reported delays of several hours in proving their identity via the GOV.UK Verify tool, the Department for Work and Pensions is allowing citizens to complete this process via the 19-year-old Government Gateway service.
Opening up access via the legacy system, which launched back in 2001 and was decommissioned four years ago, comes as the department copes with a massive surge in UC applications.
Since the announcement of social distancing measures on 16 March, more than 1.4 million new claims have been made – at a rate that shows little sign of slowing down; approximately 450,000 of those applications have been made in the last two weeks.
DWP permanent secretary Peter Schofield said last month that the department would be putting money into the Verify service to try and enable it to better cope with “an unprecedented number of people who’ve never had to engage with the government in this way before”.
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In addition to this investment, the department will also be boosting its capacity by opening up access to the benefit via other means of identity verification.
From now on, new UC applicants can demonstrate their identity using an existing Government Gateway account, providing it has been used in the last 12 months to access their online Personal Tax Account, check their state pension or tax credits, or file a personal tax return digitally.
“The move is expected to help thousands of claimants,” the DWP said.
Those without an active account will still be required to use Verify to prove their identity.
Despite efforts to phase out the platform, Government Gateway remains widely used by both citizens and Whitehall departments.
Since its launch almost two decades ago, more than 50 million people have registered on the system, which offers cross-government access to online services via a login ID and a password-protected account. This compares with about 6.5 million citizens that have signed up for Verify – the development of which was intended to offer departments a more modern and secure way of managing access to their digital services.
However, the 22 services that have adopted Verify to date is a fraction of those that continue to use Government Gateway – even four years after it was decommissioned, a process that was ultimately overseen by HM Revenue and Customs.
The tax agency opted to “rebuild” Government Gateway and retain it as the means of access for all its online services.
The system is also still in use across 16 services provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its agencies. Others that still use the technology to offer access to one or more services include the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the Welsh Government, the NHS, and Northern Ireland Departments of Infrastructure and Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.