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GOV.UK Verify

Matt Hancock on how user feedback is shaping GOV.UK Verify

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On 26 October 2015 the Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock spoke at the Institute for Government on how digital transformation can improve government services.

In this excerpt he talks about the development of GOV.UK Verify and how he verified his identity on his mobile phone, in between meetings, using just his passport and the contents of his wallet.


Across the board, user research like this is yielding incredibly valuable insights, things you simply can’t guess in advance.

Take the work on Verify, the new sign-in platform that allows you to prove who you are, so you can access safely government services online. It is a world first, and has been offering users a level of ID security that wasn’t previously possible online. It manages to give these high levels of security, without the need for a national ID card or a national identity database.

The service works by letting you choose from a range of certified ID assurance providers – like Experian or the Post Office, which then verifies your identity online, using a range of tools that meet our published government standard.

And the provider can’t see what service you’re accessing, so your data is safe. Once the user’s identity is verified the certified company then vouches for them as they sign in to government services.

When GDS trialled this service, they gave people a list, showing the logos of the providers they could choose. But this made people feel uncomfortable. It looked too commercial, in a space where you really want reassurance that you’re dealing with the government. So when the team replaced the logos with the names people responded differently and more positively, and so of course that’s what now happens.

This is the future of service design: learning from the feedback of users so services meet their needs.

Earlier this year 10,000 people used it at the last minute to file a self-assessment tax return. I personally signed up myself, on my phone, in a car between meetings, using just my passport and the contents of my wallet.

This approach means Verify is growing organically, like the best web services. No big national launch, no minister pulling the switch; just users feeding back, service managers making incremental improvements and changes, and a service that keeps on improving.

And as we’ve seen, online security like this has never been more important. Last week’s news reiterates the need for the very best online security and Verify has become a powerful weapon against identity theft because it means you can safely do business with government online. For if it’s the first duty of government to keep the country safe, the first duty of digital government is to keep your data safe.

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  1. Comment by Jon Stephen Horridge posted on

    I successfully proved my identity to a pension scheme provider and received £4000 on the strength of it. Now I'm trying to apply for a Blue Badge for transporting my 92 year old mother. I'm 68 and struggling with providing proof of identity. I'm really looking forward to the day when anyone will believe me when I say who I am! Thanks for all your effort.

  2. Comment by C S posted on

    My wife is a British citizen with both the background and range of identity documents that you might expect would allow her to be verified. However, her chosen identity provider says that, although they don't get told the exact reason why her identity cannot be verified, they suspect it's due to a "thin" credit file.

    Very disappointing!

    So, what improvements will be done to help her (and I suspect many other people like her) to enable her identity to be verified? And when (if ever) will this happen?

    • Replies to C S>

      Comment by Rebecca Hales posted on

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry your wife’s chosen certified company could not verify her. There are lots of reasons why a certified company may not be able to verify your identity and we do appreciate how frustrating that can be for those we are unable to verify at this stage.

      GOV.UK Verify is in beta (trial), which means it is constantly being developed and improved based on feedback from people who use it. We’re not able to verify everyone yet using GOV.UK Verify but we’re working to constantly expand and improve the service. Verifying someone's identity without talking to them or sending things in the post is a complex process and it will take us some time to make it work for everyone. Whilst we are in the trial period and still developing GOV.UK Verify, there are always other ways to access services so if GOV.UK Verify doesn't work for you, please return to the service you were trying to access and use one of the other available ways to access it.

      You can read more about the ongoing work we’re doing to make GOV.UK Verify work for more people in this blog post:

      We want to make sure that the people who are expected to use GOV.UK Verify can do so and we’re committed to improving GOV.UK Verify’s demographic coverage as we move towards live next year:

      • Replies to Rebecca Hales>

        Comment by C S posted on

        Thanks Rebecca. The two (beta) services that she wanted to use can only be accessed with a GOV.UK Verify log in. 🙁

        • Replies to C S>

          Comment by Rebecca Hales posted on

          Your wife should be able to access those services by telephone, but we appreciate that this is not the most straightforward or convenient method.

          Before GOV.UK Verify goes live in April 2016 a number of new certified companies will connect. These companies will bring more choice for users and new methods of verification which will improve the service overall so that it becomes more straightforward and works easily, first time for more people.

          Please accept our apologies that we were unable to verify your wife at this time. Thanks for taking the time to comment as it's really valuable. Although GOV.UK Verify has not worked for your wife, this feedback will be used to improve the process.

  3. Comment by Dave L posted on

    The initial response above is a generic boilerplate response as I received identical feedback - word-for-word - to my complaint. I am a Chartered Accountant holding every single item required by every single verifier company. Yet every single one of them, ie I "chose" them all - failed to verify me. If I can't do it, what hope for the unrepresented taxpayer?

    • Replies to Dave L>

      Comment by Rebecca Hales posted on

      Hi Dave

      As I've said above and our user support team will have mentioned, we’re not able to verify everyone yet using GOV.UK Verify. I'm sorry it's not worked for you.

      We are working with all of the certified companies to refine the process and improve the range of data sources (more here:, making GOV.UK Verify better. We're rolling out GOV.UK Verify gradually so we can carry on developing and expanding it so it can work for more people over time.

  4. Comment by Kate posted on

    Can employers use this to verify an individuals right to work in the UK

    • Replies to Kate>

      Comment by Emily Ch'ng posted on

      Hi Kate,

      No - GOV.UK Verify allows you to prove it’s really you when you use a government digital service. It protects you from other people accessing your details by pretending to be you. GOV.UK Verify allows you to prove your identity without having to phone, send things in the post or attend a counter service. This means you can access government services at your own convenience and in one sitting.