The Department for Work and Pensions is to spend £25 million on an identity assurance scheme which can identify 21,000,000 benefit claimants via web, phone or face-to-face.
The contract, which will last for 18 months, follows the Cabinet Office’s recommendation that public service providers use identity assurance services that are currently available or being developed by the private sector, with the aim of offering users a choice of identity assurance providers.
According to the contract notice, "a wide range of suppliers" will be required "to ensure demographic coverage [and] that no claimant sector is unfairly disadvantaged by limiting supplier choice."
The DWP said it would be considering a wide range of bids, including from regional suppliers whose services could not cover the whole of the UK. A "multiplicity" of suppliers will be required, with the potential for some services to be rolled out across government, it said.
Initially, all suppliers will need to be compliant with the SAML 2 security protocol as the DWP is building front end systems using that protocol. All services will eventually be required to conform to cross-government standards for ID assurance.
As well as credential management and identity verification, providers will also need to provide identity correction services at the request of the DWP or its customers. This includes "identity revocation services" – the capability to revoke a citizen’s identity, or at least its use for government authentication purposes, from a supplier.
Suppliers may submit tenders to provide ID assurance over any or all channels – web, phone and face-to-face. The DWP will have selected its ID assurance suppliers by the summer of this year, and plans to have the new services up and running by spring 2013.
On this timescale the Post Office, which recently submitted its own contract notice for third-party assistance in build an ID assurance offering, would have about a year to get service ready for the DWP, were it to submit a tender.
Earlier this month, the Cabinet Office released a report entitled "Tackling Fraud and Error in Government", which revealed that fraud costs the UK public £21.2 billion a year, the majority of which comes from fraud against tax and benefits systems.