The Cabinet Office has extended its support for the GOV.UK Verify programme in response to the surge in demand for universal credit applications.
Its departmental minister Michael Gove has issued a statement to Parliament saying it will support operations of the digital identity assurance service for a further 18 months, and has “taken steps to bolster the resilience of the service”.
This has been prompted by the big rise in demand for Verify from people creating accounts to make universal credit applications after losing work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is as yet unclear what these steps are and how much the Government has provided to support the programme.
A Cabinet office spokesperson said: "We have worked closely with government services and the identity providers to respond effectively to the unprecedented demand for Verify. This includes scaling up the identity providers’ capacity rapidly and significantly, so that more users can be processed in parallel."
Verify has been left in limbo since October 2018, when 18-month contracts were signed with identity providers who also took responsibility for increasing its take-up. The Government had indicated that no more money would be available to support the programme at the end of that period, but its role in the universal credit process has created fresh complications around allowing it to wither.
There are now only two identity providers taking fresh accounts – the Post Office and Digidentity – and the Department for Work and Pensions recently directed universal credit claimants to use the Government Gateway as an alternative.
The service works through the identity providers carrying out the initial authentication then, when the user wishes to prove their identity for an online service, the public sector body checking on the relevant attributes held by the identity provider.
It is currently used for just 16 central government online services.