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Not sharing, but checking...

What if we could ask the citizen's permission to automatically and instantly check information in order to deliver a better service? Verify, check, deliver...

Key facts - or attributes - about people and property often need to be checked by local authorities in order to determine eligibility for a public service. This can be a frustrating and time consuming process for both authorities and citizens alike. But what if we could automate that check, in real-time? What if we could ask the citizen's permission to perform this check, at just that one moment in time, in order to deliver a better service to them?

We could verify, check, deliver...

A workshop hosted by DCLG's Local Digital Programme brought central and local government representatives together to explore the potential of this concept. Checking attributes does not necessarily involve sharing data records between organisations. It can simply be a means of checking with an authoritative source that the information given by the citizen is correct.

For example, instead of a social worker collecting and processing evidence for means-testing, what if they could simply ask DWP or HMRC whether that person is in receipt of benefits or tax credits that automatically confer eligibility? How much time - and money - could be saved? And, crucially, how much more quickly could care then be organised and started?

Some key benefits are indeed 'passports' to other services, eg a child gets a free school meal if their parent is on Income Support; Disability Living Allowance with higher rate mobility automatically qualifies the individual for a blue badge.

If we identify the key attributes that we need to check in order to determine eligibility for a service we can ask the 'right question' to the 'right data' source. For example, "DWP, is John Doe entitled to a Blue Badge?" If the answer is yes, then a parking permit could be issued immediately; if the answer is no then the customer could be asked to bring in more evidence to support their request.

This checking process can be automated and can happen in real time while the customer is applying for a service. It is clear to the customer what data is being exchanged, and is done with their permission.

The Local Digital Programme is already working with DVLA to explore such a direct fact checker around driver licencing and vehicle registration that could be used to speed up the processing and delivery of a wide variety of local services - from parking permits to taxi licencing and debt collection. We believe that significant service improvements and savings could be delivered in this way.

Now that GOV.UK Verify has moved into Beta the foundations are in place to move to the next stage, with public sector organisations able to exchange key pieces of information around eligibility.

If we could check key identity and eligibility and make decisions in real-time we could revolutionise the delivery of public services: verify, check, deliver.

Attendees at the workshop - including central and local government - felt that this concept was worth exploring together and are looking to collaborate on:

  • Crowd sourcing a top-level business case for this approach with local and central government colleagues to map out local services against their central government data touch points.
  • Identifying the common data checks that could deliver both the widest service improvements and the greatest savings to the public purse.
  • Exploring existing and potential common or open standards across public services that would facilitate this API-driven approach.
  • Defining the minimum viable digital product that would enable this checking, and the minimum viable collaboration needed to rapidly prototype this product

Click here if you would like to know more about this project and contribute to the top-level business case.

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