A new in-person service has been launched that will allow people to access digital public services at their local Post Office. It has been designed to help those who are unable to use the government’s new One Login platform to prove their identity or access services online. However, citizens will still need to register for One Login with their digital credentials, something which campaigners fear could prove a barrier.
One Login for Government is a new single digital identity for accessing public services, which the government hopes to roll out across all Whitehall departments. The in-person services at the Post Office will support people with lower digital skills, enabling citizens to access self-assessment tax returns, submit a DBS check or apply for pension credit.
Users of One Login will still need to set up an account online, using their email address and mobile phone number. If a citizen needs to prove their identity for a service and doesn’t have a smartphone to access the One Login app, or needs support to utilise the digital user journey, they can prove their identity using the in-person service.
The government said that smartphone users with photo identification will be able to use the One Login identity-checking app. Acceptable ID includes a UK or non-UK passport, UK or EU driving licence, an EEA national identity card and a biometric residence permit.
Post Office One Login contract worth £19m
Alex Burghart, Cabinet Office secretary, said that it was “essential” that government services kept pace with technological change, but that everyone needed to be catered for.
“We must ensure everyone can access them,” Burghart said. “Figuring out a new online system, and completing identity verification checks, can be daunting.” He added that the new partnership with the Post Office would give more people the “confidence” to use One Login.
The contract is worth up to £19m to the Post Office, and CEO Nick Read said that the organisation already supports people and businesses with ID verification through its EasyID app, online or in-branch.
“Post Office is the place for face-to-face identity verification in the UK,” he said. “We will always remain committed to the principle that no one should be left behind in an increasingly digital world.”
As part of the agreement, the Post Office is sub-contracting document verification to tech vendor Yoti.
Will the in-person service help UK citizens access public services?
However, it’s not clear how people who suffer from digital poverty will be able to access One Login for Government as, according to the Data Poverty APPG’s State of the Nation report, two million households in the UK are currently experiencing data poverty with 1.5 million having no access to the internet.
This means that while in-person services could help with identity verification, it would not solve access for those who cannot access the internet in the first place.
Elizabeth Anderson, interim chief executive of campaign group the Digital Poverty Alliance, said she was encouraged to see the government recognising the challenge of digital poverty, but said: “Around 11 million people in the UK are digitally excluded and this affects their ability to access online services – and around 6% of the population are without any access or support to use the internet.
“The One Login programme will simplify services for many, and it’s great to see the government collaborating to ensure more people can access essential services – but for those totally offline, there will still be challenges accessing the services once verified, or receiving email notifications about their verification.”
Government Digital Service (GDS) says it is also launching a service to provide user support through phone and email in a bid to help those experiencing difficulties in proving their identity or using Gov.uk One Login. By 2025, 100 services will be available on the platform, which GDS believes will help save over £700m over the next three years.
“This partnership is just one of a number of innovations One Login will be rolling out over the next 12 months to increase ease of access to digital services,” said Natalie Jones, director of digital identity at GDS.