A senior leader has been appointed and a budget of £4.1m allocated to deliver work to retire the GOV.UK Verify platform, which is scheduled to be shut down entirely in less than a year’s time.
The same manager – Natalie Jones, the director of digital identity at the Government Digital Service – is also the named leader of the One Login project, which aims to deliver a new single government-wide system through which citizens can access online services. The appointment of Jones as senior responsible owner (SRO) for the two programmes was confirmed in two letters – dated September 2021, but only published by the government last week.
As of 1 April, Verify is no longer accepting new sign-ups. The service will be closed for good on 31 March 2023.
A number of citizen services that formerly used the service to check the identities of users have now switched to an alternative system. This includes the online processes run by the DWP for applying for Universal Credit and accessing the state pension, as well as HMRC personal tax services.
As of the end of last month, five services continue to use Verify – including those for requesting a DBS check, and online signature of mortgage deeds.
Within the next 10 months, all of these “will have been migrated to alternatives”, according to the letter confirming Jones’ appointment as SRO.
As this migration continues, Jones and her team should also “take the lessons learnt from Verify into the new SSO (single sign-on) being developed”.
The letter reveals that, over the course of the last 19 months of the technology’s lifespan, the project leader has been given the authority to “approve expenditure of £4.1m overall – up to £500,000 at a time”.
“You have personal responsibility for the retirement of the Verify programme and will be held accountable for the delivery of its objectives, with policy intent and outcomes expected,” the missive said. “This encompasses securing and protecting its vision, ensuring that it is governed responsibly, reported on honestly, escalated appropriately and for influencing the context, culture, and operating environment of the programme.”
It added: “The policy intent supported by this programme is to off board connected services either to alternative internal services or, where no alternative is available, to the new cross-government digital identity verification service being developed.”
About 20% of Jones’ time is expected to be allotted to overseeing the shutdown of Verify, with the remaining 80% dedicated to her duties as SRO for the One Login project.
The document detailing her appointment to lead that programme reveals that it was supported by funding of £21.8m during the 2021/22 year. At the time the letter was written, the Spending Review confirming its funding levels for the coming years had yet to be completed. This figure has yet to be made public.
But the letter does reveal some early projections for uptake of the new login system between and March 2025, when the current spending review period ends.
It said: “GDS will be undertaking joint planning with departments during the remainder of 2021/22, which will include defining and agreeing our detailed product roadmap, commitments and success criteria. As an indication, however, over the next Spending Review period we expect to onboard around 145 central government services to our single sign-on solution, with around 80 of them also adopting our identity verification component.
“One Login’s authentication element ‘went live’ in October 2021, with the integration of the GOV.UK Account, and a first government service will start to use the end-to-end sign-on and identity assurance system from March 2022. The overall performance criteria, which will be a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, will span service adoption, the number and type of users able to transact online, their journey times, and failure demand.”
For both the Verify and One Login programmes, Jones will report to GDS chief executive Tom Read, with additional oversight from Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm and government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Both projects sit within the Government Major Projects Portfolio.
Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister publication PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared