Central government is to introduce a text message notification service for some services from February in an attempt to reduce phone enquiries.
The GOV.UK Notify service will send text messages, emails and letters to citizens applying for a lasting power of attorney or getting an MOT.
The service will then be extended to “all of government” by the summer, according to the Government Digital Service, although it is understood that this does not extend to local government.
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A GDS blog on the topic said: “Government receives millions of calls every year, from people anxious to find out where their thing is at. People have to spend time on hold, and running call centres costs a lot of money.
“GOV.UK Notify is going to make it easy to keep people informed, by allowing service teams across government to send text messages, emails or letters to their users, before they get anxious enough to call.”
Government departments will be able to send notifications by integrating the service with their web applications or back office systems. Alternatively they will be able to use a special new interface to upload batches of messages they have already built or extracted from other systems.
GDS said: “The platform will provide flexibility and resilience through having a number of SMS, email and post providers. It’ll be straightforward for us to swap these providers in and out, based on price, performance etc, with no effort or impact to the service teams using the platform.”
GDS will also procure the providers, it said.
In addition, government departments using Notify will be given an allowance of email, text messages and letters for free.
GDS said: “The time, effort and cost of cross charging for relatively small sums of money just don’t add up.
“We are hopeful that many services won’t need more than the free allowance – in which case, GOV.UK Notify will be completely free.”
In future, the GDS said the service could be extended to allow citizens to reply to messages to book, change or cancel appointments or to renew services.