Editorial

OK, THIS is why we need working Digital Identity in the UK…

‘HSJ’ reveals that you’ll have to be on a credit reference file to prove your ID and get an online COVID-19 check. So that’s totally fair and unproblematic, right?

Posted 9 June 2020 by Gary Flood


‘HSJ’ news site yesterday revealed yet another reason why we need to find some sort of workable Digital ID for the vast majority of our fellow citizens; thin-file applicants who want to avoid getting COVID-19 can’t get an online Government check for the virus if they’re not solvent enough to be on a credit reference database.

Or as the campaigning healthcare site – which has made all of its excellent coronavirus crisis coverage free to air – puts it, “Disadvantaged groups may be excluded from the government’s online coronavirus test and trace system because it requires a credit reference database check to decide whether to deliver a home test.”

If you’re not on such a file, don’t worry; it ‘only’ means you’ll have to get in your car and go to one of the drive-in ones.

Which won’t be a problem at all for the poor or non-mobile, will it?

The story, in any case, as unearthed by the publication is that the online application process for a postal test overseen as part of the service uses a credit check company – TransUnion – to verify applicants’ Identity.

“However, people who do not pass the checks carried out by the firm – or don’t want them to be carried out – are being told they need to apply instead for a drive-through test, which for many will make it difficult or impossible,” it adds.

The online application site asks for basic details such as name, mobile number, email address and address but, then requests permission to access the TransUnion database, the publication has discovered.

Anyone who refuses is told they have to start again and choose the drive-through option, but if they accept and their Identity can’t be verified against the TransUnion database, they are again told they need to go to a drive-through testing centre.

The Department of Health and Social Care denied the system was discriminatory and said an equalities impact assessment has been carried out – although it did not share this with HSJ when asked.

It said the vast majority of users were able to pass the identify verification process and successfully order a kit, but would not give a percentage, when asked. Where individuals could not prove their identity, there were “a range of in-person services” available, a spokeswoman said.

It argued that without this form of identity verification, other countries had experienced widespread fraudulent orders for testing kits.

A spokeswoman added: “No credit check is required. Our identity verification process has been an effective means of stopping fraudulent orders and is based on international evidence.

“Our testing call centre is available to support anyone who has trouble with the identity verification process, and there are a range of other in-person testing mechanisms that do not require Identity verification.”

A TransUnion spokeswoman is then quoted as saying it’s conducting “stringent Identity checks on behalf of the NHS to help ensure testing kits are sent to the correct recipients and to minimise the risk of fraud” – and that verification does indeed use information from an individual’s credit report.

Seems like we have learned literally nothing from GOV UK Verify to us. You?