Monday 15 June 2015

RIP IDA – “It’s not our IT system; it’s the Cabinet Office’s”

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but,
just in case it isn't obvious to all,
IDA is dead.

IDA, now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)",
is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme.
And it's dead.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offer their parishioners several digital public services, among others Tax credit renewals and Transferable tax allowance. People are having problems using these digital services because they can't get past GOV.UK Verify (RIP).

Public services are services which the public are entitled to. GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is denying the public their rights.

The problem is that people can't register for a GOV.UK Verify (RIP) on-line ID without a passport or a photo-ID driving licence. Even with those documents, they can't register if they don't have a substantial credit history. Even with a substantial credit history, they can't register if they're not moderately computer-literate. Even with moderate computer literacy, they can't register if they don't have access to the internet.

These problems are well-known now and always have been. The Government Digital Service (GDS) claim to be solving them through their assisted digital initiative.

They've been claiming that since 28 July 2011 and they still are claiming it, please see All aboard: 18 months of assisted digital, 4 June 2015. It remains the case that, as the Daily Mail newspaper put it, talking about the Transferable tax allowance service, Thousands miss out in marriage tax fiasco, "HMRC's problem centres on a £25million computer system called Verify".

This matter has come to the attention of Clare McDonald, the business editor of Computer Weekly magazine. She's been talking to HMRC and reports as follows:
“No one will miss out on the Marriage Allowance because of difficulties with online verification. People can apply at any stage in the tax year and get the full entitlement regardless of when they claim,” said an HMRC spokesperson.

“It’s not our IT system; it’s the Cabinet Office’s,” the spokesperson added.
The Cabinet Office is the home of GDS and, understandably enough, HMRC want to make it clear that the dereliction of duty lies with GDS, and not HMRC, “it’s not our IT system; it’s the Cabinet Office’s”.

Ms McDonald concludes that:
Although the Verify scheme is still in its trial stage, these issues highlight the difficulties the Cabinet Office’s “digital by default” plans can bring for particular demographics, including vulnerable members of the public, people without the necessary documentation and those who do not have access to the internet.
"Particular demographics" means people. Here in the UK, public services are for everyone, not just well-connected iPhone users with a long credit history. GDS need to acknowledge reality. RIP IDA.


Updated 20.1.15

Ms McDonald returned to the subject of GOV.UK Verify (RIP) on 11 June 2015, please see Is HMRC making tax more taxing for non-digital taxpayers?. It's not HMRC's system. And even GDS are trying to keep their distance:
GDS identifies need for testing [nothing gets past them]

GDS has highlighted the need for significant provisions and funding for HMRC to include the assisted digital user base during beta testing, as part of its latest assessment of the progress on developing the personal tax account system ...

The GDS team’s assessment of the project found that, although several “assisted digital users” had been identified, there had not been sufficient testing to register their needs. GDS said the system needed “substantial work” to focus on the needs of this type of user.
If it's not HMRC's problem and it's not quite GDS's either, whose is it?

Expect to see Mark Dearnley hung out to dry at some point. Him, and also the non-performing assisted digital team, whose presence here on earth has had no detectable effect.

But when?

HMRC and GDS had better hurry up about it because even ex-tax inspectors are now publicising the problem, "BBC's Linda McAuley interviews ex Tax Inspector Adrian Huston about how some find online verification difficult":

Some of the demographics out there – "people", as we used to call them – may begin to wonder whether HMRC and GDS are being entirely truthful when they say that "no one will miss out on the Marriage Allowance because of difficulties with online verification". That's not how it looks.

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