DBS checks to become first service to move to new government-wide login

By spring 2022, process of checking someone’s criminal record will become first of ‘hundreds’ to switch to incoming system

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Checks performed by the Disclosure and Barring Service will be the first services to use the new government-wide login system.

The Government Digital Service is currently working on a project, costing well in excess of £100m, to create a single unifying GOV.UK account through which citizens will be able to access a comprehensive range of services across all departments. The platform will replace an existing patchwork of almost 200 separate online accounts, which use more than 40 different login methods.

The first government agency to make use of the new system will be the Disclosure and Barring Service, which is working in partnership with GDS to help build new online processes – or ‘user journeys’ – that interoperate with the login tool. 

Natalie Jones, GDS director of digital identity, said that the digital unit will take what it learns from its work with DBS and apply it in its ongoing engagements with all other departments and agencies.

“User feedback is a key part of our delivery plan,” she wrote, in a blog post. “I’m determined to get stuff out there that we can really learn from. This means that, by April next year, users will be able to request a basic DBS check through their GOV.UK account by entering their UK passport information and answering some questions that only they should know the answer to in order to prove their identity.”

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The basic DBS check can be requested by businesses or individuals seeking to obtain information on a person’s criminal convictions and police cautions. It it’s the lowest level of check offered by DBS; standard and enhanced checks are more in-depth are used by employers hiring people to work in roles of great responsibility or regulated professions – most notably the education and healthcare sectors.

DBS services should be the first of many to rapidly move to the new system next year, Jones said. 

“Getting the first services and users using GOV.UK Sign In is essential, but to really have met our vision of One Login for Government we need to quickly go from one or two to tens and then hundred,” she said. “So, we are working with other departments, directorates, agencies and individual services to build a clear, joined up and shared roadmap. It will enable services to understand when their required functionality will be available and give clear milestones and timelines for migration.”

During its work to date on the login system, more than 700 users have taken part in GDS user research – a process which found that “many people assume they already have an online government account that holds data on them and that services are joined-up”.

Jones said that 61% of research participants “are broadly comfortable with departments sharing that data because they think we already do”.

GDS has already launched the new authentication system that be used to protect online services accessed via on a desktop browser. 

The new digital login method is also being developed alongside a GOV.UK app, which will allow users to access hundreds of online services from a single mobile application. 

This will be supported by a separate identity-checking app, which will enable citizens to verify their identity by using their device’s near-field communication capability to scan passports and driving licences. GDS is to work alongside a commercial partner on the creation of the identity-checking app; a £5m contract notice was recently published seeking firms wishing to bid for the two-year project.

Once the document-checking app is ready, it will enable users to verify their identity in about 10 minutes, Jones said. 

The GOV.UK app that it supports will represent a “superhighway for users who can and want to use their mobile to apply for government services”, Jones said.

“Around 70% of overall traffic to GOV.UK is now via mobile and citizens are increasingly looking for faster, simpler ways to get stuff done,” she added. “Use of the app will be optional; it will be just one of the ways people will be able to prove their identity based on their preferences and documents available. That’s just part of our work to ensure no-one is left behind. We are also looking at the alternative journeys we need to provide to support inclusion and we are working through how online and offline channels need to come together to make sure everyone can use our system.”


Sam Trendall

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