The Government Digital Service (GDS) is extending its local work by running pilots with local services using GOV.UK Verify, as well as conducting research into how to better support local service delivery. This was the message to the Local CIO Council (LCIOC) at its 16 March meeting in London.
GDS has been working with Warwickshire County Council since 2013 in alpha trials and is now working to move Verify into private beta for Blue Badge renewals through a three-month trial with around 750 existing holders. Those participating will be asked to prove their identity using Verify, and will then be asked for permission for Warwickshire to check their eligibility with Department for Work and Pensions data. They will be told within moments if they still qualify for the badge.
GDS is also currently running two other pilots on concessionary travel passes and residential parking permits with local authorities, to understand how Verify can be used across local government.
Use of Verify is currently free for local authorities and citizens, and there are plans to increase the number of verified users. When questioned by LCIOC attendees on how charging would work when introduced, a GDS representative said the department was still working on this but was liaising with stakeholders to make any charging scheme as fair as possible.
GDS has also been carrying out research with more than 50 public-sector IT professionals at 17 organisations in Yorkshire and north-east England. After many interviews and nearly 400 pages of comments it found that many workers would like clearer and more consistent ways to enter into dialogue and to collaborate with GDS on common issues. GDS is considering how it can achieve this, possibly through establishing regional hubs.
Those interviewed generally understood and supported the work of GDS, but many wanted it to be more accessible. The research also found that while GDS engaged well with those delivering digital services, better support could be provided for public sector senior managers and directors.
The LCIOC heard that GDS is working on how to improve its communications, and is considering the importance of location when supporting those designing and delivering public services as an option for making positive changes. It hopes to play a greater role in discussing digital plans as a ‘critical friend’ and in match-making between different parts of the public sector that are working on similar things.
As well as Verify, GDS is working on other shared platforms including GOV.UK Pay for accepting payments and GOV.UK Notify for text messages and emails, both of which recently went live. It is also looking at ways to help public sector professionals work together across organisations, such as through making staff Wi-Fi networks interoperable or through online collaboration systems like Slack.
It is seeking input from local government to its development plans, contained within the Government Transformation Strategy published in February.
The meeting also heard about NHS England’s plans for new digital services. It is launching a trial of online registration for GP services, improved information on a range of conditions and a new range of apps at the end of March. By September, it plans to provide personal health records through the NHS.uk site in selected areas.
Attendees discussed how local authorities could be involved, including providing structured data on local well-being services, which Lancashire County Council is testing. Three areas are testing new versions of the 111 non-emergency healthcare service, which can result in referrals to local authority social care services.
Attendees said they are keen that NHS.uk provides a way to access and aggregate data on local care services, and will work with NHS England on this.