The Verify system, which was supposed to allow claimants to prove their identity online, has turned into another digital disaster according to a report released by the National Audit Office (NAO) today.
Verify was supposed to enable citizens to prove their identities online, so that they could securely access a whole raft of government services including tax refunds, but most especially universal credit.
In 2016, the government said it expected 25 million people would be using Verify to access 46 government services by 2020. In fact, so far only 3.6 million people have managed to use Verify and only 19 government services are available through it.
By 2020 no more than 5.4 million users will have signed up.
Private sector companies, who carry out the verification process, are costing considerably more than had been estimated. At least £54 million has been paid to private companies, with each identity verification costing around £20.
Bizarrely, most government departments, have failed to pay Cabinet Office invoices for use of the system, apart from HMRC which has shelled out £6.7 million.
The success rate for people trying to sign up with Verify is an abysmal 48%. The government claimed that there would be a 90% success rate.
Worse still, the success rate for the 70% of universal credit claimants who try to use the system is a dire 38%. Yet difficulties proving identity can lead to delays in payment and real hardship for those involved.
The NAO report concludes that the whole project suffers from major failings, ‘including optimism bias and the failure to set clear objectives’. Ultimately, the NAO considers that the repeated decisions to continue Verify, instead of closing it down, have not been justified.
You can download the full NAO investigation into Verify from this page.