The Department for Work and Pensions looks to be developing its own version of an online identity tool intended as a way to ensure a secure transaction with government services, according to several sources.
The current mechanism for online identification while securing benefits and tax credits is the Government Gateway, which is supposed to be replaced by the Government Digital Service's Verify. Verify is slated to be launched this year.
Unlike the Gateway, which authenticates sign-ups by mailing them an activation code, Verify's operation is intended to be fully online.
However, the four-year programme has encountered serious problems, having repeatedly missed its sign-up targets and proving to be difficult for many to use.
Many "text book" self assessment tax users have also struggled to authenticate themselves via the current identity providers Experian, the Post Office, Digidentity and Verizon.
But the service has been particularly difficult for users who lack the digital footprint the providers require. This could be a particular problem for departments such as the DWP, who deal with a whole spectrum of users. Both farmers and recipients of HMRC's marriage allowance have struggled to use the platform.
A number of sources have told The Register that both the DWP and HMRC are building their own separate online identity systems due to the issues related to getting Verify off the ground.
In response to a Freedom of Information request sent from The Register, the department said: "DWP is in the process of developing a range of new digital services. Over time these new services will replace those currently using Government Gateway for identity verification."
However, when explicitly asked by The Register if it was building an entirely separate system to Verify, the department refused to answer, citing commercial confidentiality.
The department was unable to say when it expected to switch off the Gateway, saying it will continue to be used for business identity verification and citizen identity management alongside Verify.
"Transition from current to new services, including any change of identity verification solution, will be determined on a service-by-service basis," it said.
The DWP said it had nothing further to add. ®