Farmers shut out of online services by new identity scheme

Issues do not bode well for government plans for over 400,000 people to be using identity assurance by March

Farmers have reacted angrily at being shut out of the new online service for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) applications and payments.

A number of users found themselves cut off from the online CAP service because they are unable to certify their identity using the government identity assurance scheme launched as a public beta last week.

The identity assurance scheme, branded 'GOV.UK Verify', is a cross-government programme to let people certify their identity via an external provider, so they can gain access to secure online government transactions. It is being led by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Although a Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) blog post earlier this month promised that people would be able to "choose who you'd like to verify you from a list of certified companies", when it launched users were only offered the option of using Experian.

'Couldn't be more complicated'

Commenting on a Defra blog post, one frustrated user said: "I was not able to register as Experian could not verify my identity."

A number of individuals said that they had tried to register for the service three or four times without success.

One said: "An absolute waste of time! I've now been through the process three times (an hour and a half) and Experian still can't verify my identity.

"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! Is this all really necessary???"

Others comments included: "The site must have a complete revamp", "the whole process is, as usual, as clear as mud", and "it seems that there has been little thought as to how they [farmers] would find using this service".

Another angry user added: "This couldn't be more complicated if you tried. We are farmers not computer experts!"

Over 400,000 users by March?

The issues are especially worrying as GDS has indicated it expects over 400,000 people to be using identity assurance by March.

After launching to support the CAP information service, identity assurance is due to start supporting a further five services across HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work & Pensions, the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation Skills by the end of this year.

GDS responded to the complaints by saying GOV.UK Verify is "a new and continuously improving service" and "not a finished product".

In a blog post GDS acknowledged: "Not everyone is getting through GOV.UK Verify at this stage - we're using feedback from customers to continue to develop and improve the service."

An official added: "Currently there is just one certified company [Experian] providing GOV.UK Verify, more certified companies will come online in the near future."

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