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This is a note of the roundtable discussion prepared by:
e-Government Product Director, Atos
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Background: On 13th Feb 2013, an informal subgroup of the Local Public Services CIO Council gathered to discuss the implications of the announcement by the Cabinet Office PSN team of a pan PSN Identity Assurance scheme (PSN IDA). This note reflects the discussion and some broad conclusions about PSN IDA in the context of Local Public Services.
Discussion: Many around the table had been through various iterations of Government identity schemes. It is fair to say that identity as a topic in isolation is neither a focus nor problem that Local Government is currently seeking to solve. No Local Government organisations currently have issues with identity management within their organisations. Hence a scheme that promises a new approach to identity for Local Government employees is unlikely to get focus or investment in the current environment. The general sentiment was that PSN IDA was a solution looking for a problem.
That said, there are challenges facing Local Government that relate to identity. If the PSN IDA approach were to solve these challenges, then Local Government would be interested in being involved. Top of that list of challenges that PSN IDA could help solve is multi agency working within the boundaries of a single Local Authority. The most frequent area discussed at the round table was around troubled families where multi agency working is viewed as the most effective way of supporting the needs of people who are within the care system. Currently, there are significant complexities and barriers to multi agency working (Local Government, Health, Police, the third sector etc.). These problems tend to relate to both different information governance standards used by agencies and also a lack of interoperable technology. The vision of the PSN is to create a pan public sector network that includes health (with N4 being PSN compliant). In that future, if one ID scheme could be used as the basis of a trust relationship between agencies to facilitate easy working between Local Government, Health, Police, the third sector and others, then PSN IDA would be fixing a problem that is causing Local Government considerable challenges at this time.
There are other potential benefits that could be recognised as well, however, none in isolation was considered sufficient to create a compelling business case without a solution to multi agency working. It is worth noting that these potential benefits were not universal; the sense of the round table was that they were applicable in some areas and not others, reflecting the diverse challenges faced by different areas of the country as well as the various political drivers of individual Local Authorities. These other potential benefits included:
- Supporting the roll out of shared services.
- Supporting joint working across Local Government boundaries.
- Could this solution enable and enhance the protection of personal data?
- It was anticipated that a national solution would have direct cost savings over existing solutions.
- Consequential benefits for example it has been noted that where agencies join up in providing social care it is possible to see a reduction in domestic fires (because a social worker can check the batteries in smoke alarms etc.).
- A common standard for identity verification could open up opportunities for Local Government to outsource identity verification services.
Conclusions: For PSN IDA to be successful as a pan Local Government solution that is rolled out across Local Government, then it must articulate a solution to a problem that is important in a Local Government context at this time. That important problem is multi agency working, particularly between Local Government and health. Other benefits exist but on their own they are not sufficiently compelling to warrant Local Government focus and investment at this time.
It was a good and robust round table.We would like to express our thanks to the LCIOC members participating.