Defra Responds To Farmers’ Anger Over Verification Scheme

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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GOV.UK Verify is proving difficult to use for the farmers upon which Defra is testing it

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has responded to the complaints of farmers angry about failures in the GOV.UK Verify scheme, claiming that the number of identity assurance providers is to be expanded soon.

The service, led by Government Digital Service (GDS), is intended to streamline the way users verify their identities in order to access secure government services. It is currently in beta testing, with Defra being one of the first adopters – the department is using it to register certain individuals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Information Service.

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Overly technical

In comments on the Defra blog post announcing that GOV.UK Verify would support the CAP service, a number of users complained about being unable to complete the verification process.

“I’ve now been through the process three times (an hour and a half) and Experian still can’t verify my identity,” read one comment. “They want details of a credit card that I don’t have and I can’t remember the exact date that I moved to my current address in 1984.”

Other complaints mention being told by a helpline to try again in a week, and the service posing excessive technical difficulties.

“We are farmers not computer experts,” read another comment.

Feedback

Defra responded that currently only one provider, Experian, is certified to provide identity assurance for GOV.UK Verify, but more suppliers are expected to become active in the “near future”.

“We’re using feedback from customers to continue to develop and improve the service,” Defra said in a statement, adding that “it is not a finished product”.

Currently only selected users are being invited to register through GOV.UK Verify, Defra said.

Experian said it is currently working on “calibrating” the way the service functions, and emphasised that the system is not currently in use for verifying the current year’s CAP payments.

Wider rollout

GDS has said it expects more than 400,000 people to be using GOV.UK Verify by March, with the service to begin testing by HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work & Pensions, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation Skills by the end of the year.

GOV.UK Verify is currently scheduled to roll out across government by March 2016.

“We’re collecting feedback from users and continuing to test, monitor, and improve the system,” said the Cabinet Office in a statement, adding it is in the “early phase” of public use.

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