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Most of us have an anecdote about a time we’ve worked with a celeb. They’re often quite an ‘experience’ Here’s a crowd-sourced fun blog post sharing the experiences of over 30 comms pros.

by Darren Caveney

I’ve met a few celebrities in my 25 years in comms (when I say celebrity I’m not talking A listers) It’s not always been fun, to be honest. Bernard Ingham springs to mind…

Most others have been lovely, though. Frank Skinner, Julie Walters and the late, great Cyrille Regis, all made Freeman of the Borough whilst I was working at Sandwell Council, were a delight.

But not everyone has had the best of days meeting D, E and F listers.

So here goes with the ones I’m able to publish. You should have seen the ones which slid into my DMs which were NOT for publication!


Back in 2003/4 ish (very early in my comms career) I was organising the first event I’d been given responsibility to do on my own – an opening for an affordable housing development (I worked for a housing association) in Hillingdon. We had all the dignitaries turning out, but the CEO was clear he didn’t want the mayor – he wanted someone special to make a big impact for the community. The only two local "celebs" I could find with Hillingdon connections were Claire from Steps and Audley Harrison MBE (Olympic Boxer). Claire wasn’t available… The big day came, the local mayor, councillors and MP turned up to stand in a car park to take the obligatory "curtain pulling photo".. He turns up in the most enormous hummer – his driver was amazing as this was a poky little cul-de-sac and he parked it like it was a smart car. Awesome. Out steps the big man – and he is absolutely huge! He works the crowd beautifully. He greets the dignitaries but then spends loads of time with the residents – real pro, and really down to earth. The moment comes for the unveiling of the plaque. He peers beneath the curtain, then cracks up laughing. Doubles over. Almost rolling on the floor. Everyone wonders what is going on. He then says "I got a promotion from the queen!". Throws back the curtain… and there in solid brass is the inscription: "Was opened by Audley Harrison OBE".

I’d got the wrong honour. Thankfully he thought it was hilarious. I slunk to the back and cringed…

Andrew Fielding


A story by Ross Wigham

I  played in a journalists vs ex pros football game at Craven Cottage. Fulham, as now, where then in the premier league and it was all very exciting as I’d watched NUfC play there a few days earlier….

Some decent names still going then and some of them took it much more seriously than others. Anyway, it was all really exciting as we got special kits sponsored by Carlsberg and use of the proper changing rooms and players lounge.

We also got to share the changing room with the players who offered up some eye watering anecdotes which I won’t share here for legal reasons! So, on with the game and we nervously trooped out onto the manicured turf ready to take on our heroes of yesterday.

This was a big deal even though most of them were in their late 40s or 50s by then. I was in my very early 20s and unlike many of them hadn’t been out the night before so fancied my chances to get amongst the goals.

It ended up being quite a tight game and not the walkover you would imagine even though many of the ex-pros were just having a laugh. Anyway about half way through the second half a perfect pass gets played through the middle and I’m off onto it like a young Alan Shearer…

Bearing down on goal at full sprint I just have to beat the keeper and I’m already planning how I’m going to celebrate the imminent goal. The classic Shearer, maybe the robot or a knee slide across the damp turf?

But then, disaster…I felt two feet smashing into the back of me in probably the worst fouls you’ve seen since Harold Schumacher… Phil Neal (who at the time was the player with the most honours in British football) had absolutely cleaned me out just inside the box…. PENALTY

Wow a penalty – at a premier league ground. Just need to smash it home and then into the bar to celebrate. I just need to score this then dine out forever on the tale of scoring at a professional ground against an all-time England legend. My grandchildren are going to hear about this.

I placed the ball on the spot, ignored the sledging from Neal and looked up to face the goalkeeper…. It’s all time record cap (at the time) Peter Shilton. He must be ancient now there’s no way he’s stopping this…start the car lads..

Quick two-step run up and blasted as hard as I can to the top corner…lovely penalty. Shilton dives theatrically to his right……… and makes an incredible save. (Shame he couldn’t bloody do that against Germany in 1990)

They thought it was all over…. and it was. The goal that never was. Premier league I hardly knew you.

And here I am with the two main protagonists who were both lovely and really generous with us all.

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I once interviewed Brian Blessed on a carousel on Preston Flag Market about his campaign against electric cat collars – very random and filled with shouts of "Gordon’s Alive!" at frequent intervals to passers by! Ha ha.

Rachel Mc


I’ve met @mattgoss & @RealKiefer (not at the same time). Both lovely. Matt phoned my sister cause she was going through chemo for breast cancer at the time

Tiffany Jones


Sir Patrick Stewart. Such a lovely man.

Richard Morris


Work related, probably most interesting was working with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost after persuading them to turn the Christmas lights on, gratis, in little old Letchworth!  Either that or being at the drinks where Brian McFadden met Kerry Katona.  I mean, come on!

Thom Burn


I once got to move very drunk people in Soho out the way so a camera crew could film Dr Hilary talking about binge drinking for a Christmas campaign … Loved wearing my stylish press officer high vis while everyone else was all glammed up for a night out

Hannah Warburton


Paula Yates, early 90s, promoting her novel Village People (I’ve still got my signed copy, obviously). She was very sweet and flirted outrageously with our Marketing Director.

Rachel Killian


I’ve got a few but a couple I love…One involves writing a speech for a very, very VIP and being so paranoid about it I did it on a Saturday night after a bottle of red wine, feeling invincible. The other is smuggling a naked man out of a building

Kate Pritchard


I went to a work lunch with Giovanni Pernice from Strictly and he ate a lemon whole – like it was an apple. Did a photoshoot with three members of S Club 7, many years ago. interviewed and filmed Jason Manford and even further back met Phil Tufnell when he was filming The One Show.

Karen Jeal


Not work related but once on a city break in Amsterdam in the early ’00s I visited Anne Frank’s house. It’s pretty cramped in there with lots of visitors so I stopped to let a couple through a doorway. Did a double-take and realised it was Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Rob Jefferson


I sold a bottle of wine to Brad Pitt in a former life. My husband turned down a drink from Dani and Kylie Minogue and MORTIFYINGLY told them I could sing as they told him they were singers. He didn’t have a clue who they were. But best was David Bowie opening a door for me

Amanda M


I was editor of my uni newspaper & Blur were coming down to the union to watch Dubstar. I had an interview lined up & asked my photographer to get a pic. On processing the film he very proudly showed me … Blur’s security guard, Damon Albarn just in the background

Kate Vogelsang


Interviewed actor Robert Lindsay as a journo on his local paper in Ilkeston. Was in touch line at a footie match. He then invited me for drink at half time and offered me a whiskey.

Theresa Knight


In my first job at a cancer charity we did a campaign to promote eating frozen veg. Gary Lineker fronted it and I had to ask him to hug someone dressed as a carrot. The pic ended up on Have I got news for you a few years later. I also have other tales that are purely for a DM!!

Lisa Ward


Stephen Fry. It’s Twitter so had to be Stephen Fry. I interviewed him just as Cell Mates, a play he was in with Rik Mayall, was about to begin its West End run.

Famously he walked out of the production after only a few shows, and holed up in Belgium. He blamed stage fright, later his bi-polar. I’ve always hoped it wasn’t my interview technique.

Actually he was, charming, funny and we had a grand chat.

Andy Allsop


When I was head of press and pr for an ambulance service they also utilised my nursing skills and we covered the Brit awards every year….. where shall I start…..

Victoria Parker


I bumped into Robert Downey Junior in the lift of a swanky hotel, as I was carrying a load of boxes up to a press launch in the penthouse. I dropped a box and RDJ didn’t r offer to help… He did have a nice smile though…

Verity Cash


OK not technically me but it’s a good one – my husband was at a urinal a few years ago when Pavarotti came and stood next to him. He must of looked shocked as Pav turned to him and said: “Yes. Pavarotti – he pisses too.”

Fiona Topliss


Soooo many! On my first day as a runner I was told (in not such polite terms) to ‘go away’ by a very famous comedian after I asked him if he’d mind doing a quick PTC in support of a fundraising campaign

Liz Mcintyre


Had Jeremy Paxman at Broadmoor Hospital once for a piece on Victorian painters. He disappeared at one point and it turned out he’d been taking a pee in the bushes… lots of CCTV at Broadmoor… Flushed face

Matt Barnfield


In a previous life, Chris Evans filming virtual colonoscopy to highlight dangers of bowel cancer! Got a kiss and a hug afterwards. Plus, Diana, Princess of Wales, opening a refuge for runaways the week after announcing retirement from public life. Made for interesting crowd control!



During the first coronavirus lockdown this year I ‘met’ boxers Nigel and Conor Benn over a work video call…I was still in my pyjamas and hadn’t even put a brush through my hair!

Alison Mully


We did a media tour for Noel Edmonds at the University of Salford and all I remember from it was his shiny purple leather boots

Liam McCallion


I worked with Keith Harris and Orville for a campaign and Keith left me a voicemail and half way through  said “wait, someone here wants to speak to you” and Orville then left me a message. It was one of the most joyous moments of my young PR life

Laura Weston


Media conf with Nelson Mandela at a jail in Glasgow with assembled Scottish pack. One chance to ask a question of a man, whose presence filled room. So I did. He asked me to repeat. So I did.

He asked me to speak up a bit because I was so softly spoken, he said, I "spoke like a lady"

Andrew Walker


I shot a wedding in Sheffield and Willie Thorne photobombed the bride and groom shot, I was on kids tv with a group from school interviewing Jason Connery (Robin of Sherwood days) and I was in season 2 of it’s not easy being green with Dick / James Strawbridge – do they count?

Niel Stewart


Not sure it’s a fave but Nikki Grahame, 5th in Big Brother Series 7, launching a wildlife recording initiative at London Zoo supported by Woolworths….a surreal combo! We, the scientists, didn’t choose her….The Getty archive has a picture of a ladybird on Nikki’s nose

Barnaby Smith


I once drove Morrissey to a flower shop in Sheffield to pick up the gladioli he waved about on stage, for the Smiths’ first gig outside of Manchester….

Sally Hancock


I produced a corporate sports quiz with celebs on each table. After the meet & greet I was shut away in a little production room. Out of nowhere Kris Akabusi appears with the event photographer. Kris made him take a photo of us which he later signed with the message "Keep Smiling!"

Nicole Wheatley


Celeb might be a push but I bumped into Dominic Cummings in a chip shop on Christmas Eve and then in the amusements – he ended up in some of our photos. All I’m going to say about that is he used the 10p sliders not the 2p ones.

Niel Stewart


I once made coffee for the guy who played Dr Legg in Eastenders when he came to my grandmother’s flat. He was a friend of hers.

Tom Kingsley


On the more positive side…John Craven was absolutely lovely plus ordered a very nice bottle of Rose when we went filming, and Dallas Campbell is a truly nice kind guy, who genuinely loved sharing his passion for science with all when we did a school bumblebee project with him.

Barnaby Smith


I once accidentally insulted the golfer Sam Torrance when I made a joke about him missing the cut at Slaley Open when he was stood behind me

David Punton


Hosted an early morning visit from Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson. No 10 requested breakfast for press conference after the tour. Alan J was the only person to eat anything. Stuffed a croissant in his mouth in front of the snappers. Evening Standard headline? "Mr Pastry"

Mark Graver


I once danced on stage dressed as a bear with the Cheeky girls

Natalie Corney


I was about 12, sat with cousins under a bridge by the river Shannon in their tiny Irish town when Mick Hucknall appeared out of nowhere. He was on his own and I remember him telling us that he had a helicopter landing pad at Old Trafford!

Rob McCleary


Escorting Peter Kay from his car to join Bolton’s Christmas Lights Switch on and him taking the p out of me communicating that on a walkie talkie



I once worked with Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen and took him on a tour of kitchen showrooms across the country. One of the most ‘glamorous’ aspects of my job was fetching him sushi – he said to me “I don’t want that kind of sushi that tastes like the skin between old ladies’ thighs.”

Kelly O’Hanlon


I interviewed Michael Foot and he was lovely.  NOTHING like the media portrayed him.  And the interview was a walk with both of our dogs Dizzie and George across Hampstead Heath,  husband and photographer in tow.  Surreal and very lovely morning.  There is a photograph somewhere!

Stevie at Rent Plus


My auntie works for the Beeb (actual auntie beeb!) and once asked if I’d like to be inside the Pudsey costume for Children In Need night when the cameras went around the country and came to Glasgow. I was 19 😂 and jumped at it. They needed two people as it’s *hot* inside that suit! My friend came with me and we took turns. It was about the time Boyzone were becoming huge and they were performing. I thought I was a bit too cool to be a boyband fan of their music but turns out I was quite partial to handsome Irish men 🤷‍♀️ And he smelled *amazing* You could tell where he’d been as his aftershave was so strong it lingered in the corridor. Just intense memories of inhaling deeply in empty corridors 😂 Then we were on the floor for the final part of the broadcast and I was *IRL* next to Ronan as we were all doing some sort of weird line dance or something. One of us (likely not the person in a band making a living out of being able to follow routines TBH) went the wrong way and he stood on my foot and apologised so sweetly I was sure it was only the giant teddy bear costume stopping him from actually kissing me. Le sigh. That’s made me smile so much

Rosaleen Kelly


I was working on a campaign for a well-known brewer and specifically an ale brand. They were running a national darts competition at a very ‘grass roots’ level but went big on the celebrity endorsement and the hype around it. Part of this was to have Phil ‘the power’ Taylor fronting the campaign. If you’re not a darts fan then his website perfectly understates his achievements…

  • The greatest player ever to throw a dart

  • 16 x World Darts Champion

  • 6 x Premier League Winner

  • 6 x Grand Slam Winner

  • 4 x World Cup of Darts Champion

  • 16 x World Matchplay Winner

  • 11 x Grand Prix Winner

I had to travel to Phil’s training facility in Stoke to art direct a photoshoot. The facility was a shrine to his achievements. It was also the back room of his brothers pub.  It was far from Phil’s first rodeo. The mission was to keep the sponsors logo on show and no shadows on the board. All went to plan in spite of some over familiar greetings from the Stoke locals!

Alan Oram


Vanessa Feltz – one of the rudest people I’ve ever met. Fundraising dinner for a national charity at the Daniel Galvin Windows restaurant on Park Lane – she was refusing to leave the bar to go to the dinner so I was dispatched to round her up. "I’M TALKING!!!!" was the response. I wanted to ask her why she was even bothering to be there as clearly she didn’t want to be, but of course I didn’t – I did give her a very hard Paddington stare though!

Mark Graver


Thanks to everyone who shared their memories.

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Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0


I spent the most time on Project MT (I think a few people know I am working with/for Pilot Works, Placecube and Kit at the Royal Borough of Greenwich council), doing service design work for two days overall. We ended the week having a chat about a couple of journeys and how we name things shapes our perception of the journey. The journey work we have done is actually good, in that we’ve tested it, got some feedback, done some changes, feel confident it’s in a solid enough shape (as much as you can be in the land of Always Learning). It’s how we frame it to everyone else causing the issues. We were calling the journeys “logged in” and “logged out”. We took a step back and considered the situations you’d be in for those journeys. So we reframed them. We design with what we know at the time, hey. And someone might say “You’ve just renamed it!” But naming things is hard: You give things a name and that tends to stick. Renaming makes the journeys more self explanatory to all. It was a useful exercise.

I had some time preparing for a new project I am joining, which will be coded MM. There are lots of things I like about working in local gov. Working with/for Kit has nudged me to think of other digital/experience bosses like Ben, Emma, Neil and Paul, who believe in services that are people focused and have a good feel how places and teams should go about this (half, it feels, because they have Been There And Done That and not just rolled in off an MBA background). I spent a while in national gov and public departments and the ones where the digital head was involved were the most rewarding. The ones where the digital head just seemed of another culture altogether weren’t the most rewarding. This has played a big factor shaping what I choose to do next, with a few nudges from people to make best use of my skills. The train only comes once, eh. I start properly the week after next on 1 December. It is going to take up most if not all of my working week for the coming months.

I spent a day overall helping out on project MC, most of that time spent pairing with another designer, supporting them, something I don’t do much these days. It’s unknotting several things. If we had a solid day at it we’d make a huge chunk of progress, but we’re fitting it in around other stuff. I really like the designer too — they’re made of the right stuff.

I had a day working on project MA, a small team of multi-disciplinaries, using our skills to full use. I have been called an “agilista” in the past and my personal response was… to tone done my “agilista” tendancies. But here there’s a team of four of us and we’re all quite good at what we do, to be honest. And we’re all agilistas, which helps set the tone of how we go about work so much easier. I am mainly doing the product owner duties, the “people facing” design (and by that I mean the user facing stuff, like the web interface, emails and letters, but also making our maps more easily digestible for the team and other interested parties) and research planning. We’re all doing delivery manager stuff, cutting how we work to be reguarly delivering but with some clear quality indicators. This is really good working and work.

Non-project stuff

I published some blogs posts, on the typeface Papyrus and how I plan my day. Both exercises in writing for just half an hour and putting them out there, a knack I’d fallen out of touch with, and a little out of love to be honest.

The rest of the week was helping others out, quite a few chats with other designers helping them, from team issues to better ways of working to exploring design options to second eyeing stuff. When you get a few designers spread around public services telling you about team and culture issues it gets dispiriting. I enjoy having the chats, I just don’t like seeing the wider pattern. People say stuff like how user centred design is well established in government now, but especially after this week I still feel the struggle is real. Some days I feel it’s easier just to gut some teams and start again. Sorry to the people in those teams.

Some commoner issues:

  • How design has to fit into the development process rather than the overall software/service making process. Designing is a process too and should work with development into the overall software/service making process.
  • In story writing or stand ups designers asked to provide a solution to something not so straightforward from developers on the spot has popped up a few times over the last couple of months. My tip here: Just ask if you can take the problem away, and you’ll look at it as soon as you can. Buy yourself your space. Do devs code a solution on the spot in reviews?
  • Product owners that provide project management thinking not product thinking.
  • Teams overriding or ignoring the guidance of designers (dot voting is a fucking charade sometimes, a good example of passive aggression in some teams).
  • Bad behaviours. What happened to team orders or working principles, that the teams created and followed? (To be honest I’ve not been in that many teams that did this or had these.) Get these down, make them explicit, make them accountable.
  • Interaction designers and content designers: co-work more! Find some time, the same time!, to work together, less doing your task/s in the chain and passing it on. Work it through, work it out, work on it. Also the more designers that can communicate the design consistently and together, well, it’s a numbers game sometimes isn’t it, eh dot voting.

I said it on Twitter yesterday but I’ll repeat it here. Whether you’re “full time”, a direct freelancer or at an agency know you’re not alone. The problems you face – whether they are about design, a team, the org you are in – are replicated around. When you’re struggling reach out to someone. (And on the flip side if you’re in a leadership or management position and someone reaches out to you find the time for even a little chat. And if you can’t try to direct them to someone who can. Hanging is the worst feeling for people who are struggling. People centred and all that.) My messages – DMs on Twitter, SMS, WhatsApp, Signal – are always open if you’re a designer who needs someone to talk to.

I learned more than I planned about what people think about me. I was reminded by several I can be seen as a “leader” and I was reminded on a couple of occasions of the responsibilities people can expect from people in those positions. I want to be a better ally, especially for under-represented communities, so appreciated the feedback. Note: I am not doing this to be a better leader, I just want to do this to be a better person, a better person to work with, a better person doing work. I have been looking forward to post-March (when project MC ends) and wondering if I can go back to a “managing role” just bringing along How I Do Things. Not so sure and probably why I’ll keep doing “my own thing”.

I kept half an eye on all the US election recounts and political moves, and wondered deeper in the system what chance there are data issues, especially interoperability across channels.

We — a few of the UK’s jam runners — had a chat about jams in the UK in the future. Gov Jams are being planned for next month and we had a little heads-together to see if we could pull something together by then. To be honest some of feel smashed. Finding the time and space to plan one on top of our existing commitments with about a month’s notice isn’t easy. Also, how do other people who feel? We decided we’re going to look at March 2021. If you’re interested in helping form whatever this jam is, drop me a line.

Service Lab London’s gig this week was pretty great. I nodded a lot, I made some notes, it prompted me to get round to writing down what I mean by the terribleness of data and I also disagreed with some stuff, which is a pretty healthy outcome for a couple of hours.

I went to another service design event (which was generally very good) and observed how few people wanted to understand more a very vague problem they were presented with and defaulted to throwing ideas against a wall. Understanding is as valuable as ideas. Ideas are cheap and all that.

Too many friends have suddenly got Playstation 5s and I have a little tech envy. But — and big but — I have a PS4, I have games yet to play on it, so I am fine with my PS4 right now. Honestly.

I found myself fading fast after 4pm, only happening the last month or so. I wondered about a SAD lamp and asked on Twitter. I am now going to buy a SAD lamp for my working environment. (It’s OK to fall asleep on the sofa on a Saturday and Sunday late afternoon.)

This week was assisted by

Next week

  • I need to send out a date picker for the local gov playbook analysis session
  • I need to plan in the next local gov research and design meet, for the week commencing 14 December (likely to be the Tuesday or Wednesday).
  • Finish packaging the “vanilla” in-browser prototype kit
  • More project MT
  • Product in the A(ether)

Interesting reads

Looking further ahead

Original source – Simon Wilson

Ishmael at his laptop working from home


I’m a senior software engineer working in the heart of our digital identity and trust team. We’re a close-knit team of specialists and we’d been used to working physically close to one another when we were office based. Now, of course, we’re all working from home, which has its drawbacks but overall it’s working remarkably well.

Since mid-March we’ve made a really good transition to home-working, using the engineering tools and techniques available to us to drive forward our digital transformation.

Why we’re developing automation

We’re optimising our investment in automation to allow us to free colleagues from repetitive manual processing. Our team is focused on transitioning all of our digital services from being essentially 1-way, information only flows in one direction, from us to our users to 2-way allowing our users to interact and respond. We’re using a pool of technologies known as the Dynamic Trust Hub to do this. Users usually interact with DWP by filling in an online form which is then processed manually. Our goal is to shift some of the burden of this away from us and back to the user, allowing them to create a verified and trusted online identity which can be re-used.

Testing and automation

In our development and testing work we’re also big believers in automation. Not only because it saves time in the long run, but also because it vastly reduces the risk of errors which can arise with manual processes, configuration and testing.

With a product as complex as the Dynamic Trust Hub, we brought in automation at the very start. Scripting our environments so that they could be set up with minimal intervention. Building a full suite of automated tests for the cases and user journeys, and automating code quality checks to ensure that coding errors or mistakes were not inadvertently introduced.

Using AWS and innovative tech for fast deployment

Cloud services and tooling allow us to deploy software more quickly and put the user at the centre of customer-led journeys. Over the past few years there has been a big move to cloud, chiefly utilising Amazon Web Services (AWS). For an organisation like ours, the big advantage of using cloud-based services is that we can rapidly scale up as needed, while also being able to take advantage of some of the cost savings associated with hosting and managing our own data centres.

AWS offers an excellent range of services and the security and resilience of their platform also makes it easy for us to deploy new services as we need them. For example, to set up a server for performance testing which can then be brought down when it’s no longer needed.

Developing secure identity software

To help achieve our goals of security and reliability for users, we’re using one of the leading identity and access management off-the-shelf packages, ForgeRock, to drive much of the functionality. ForgeRock includes BBC iPlayer as one of its big success stories, and I was part of the team of developers which evaluated the product before it was selected to be used by us.

My current work with ForgeRock is really varied and interesting, and uses a good range of technology. ForgeRock includes a complete RESTful API layer, which means we’re working on 2 primary interfaces, a standard GDS Node app/front end, and a 3rd party voice-activated system which will allow users to interact with DWP via ForgeRock services over the phone. It’s my first opportunity to work with voice-activated systems and speech recognition, so this has been especially interesting.

Working with voice recognition

We’re working with a team of technicians to refine the speech recognition interface between the user and the ForgeRock layer. DWP has a lot of hands-on experience of dealing with some of the intricacies and subtleties of voice recognition. We use our own algorithms to help decipher what users are trying to tell us and turning this into a string of text and a probability score. Currently a majority of our users still prefer to interact with us over the phone rather than by post or online. This means that speech recognition is likely to be an important way to make communication with the department easier until our users feel comfortable with the ‘channel shift’ from phone to online.

Developing and increasing software potential

ForgeRock software provides a lot out-of-the-box, but what makes it quite powerful is the ability to use ‘scripted nodes’ and ‘custom nodes’ to extend the functionality as you want. We’re developing one-off scripted nodes in JavaScript, and new custom nodes written in Java for reusable pieces of functionality.

ForgeRock isn’t the only software suite we’re using. Within my specific squad, we’re developing an ‘ID Store’. This is a micro-service which captures ID verification events and allows us to verify a users’ identity by querying the ID events we know about them.

There’s a huge amount going on in identity and trust, with real potential to provide transformational ways in which users can interact with us.

In the long term, there’s a lot of exciting technology we are looking at. Transaction risk is another area we’re exploring, which will allow us to use a range of data sources to consider each interaction with the Dynamic Trust Hub and respond accordingly.

With all of the new innovation in our teams it’s an exciting time to join us. Have a look at our current vacancies to apply now.


Original source – DWP Digital

Sweet Jehovah, a council in Scotland have done one of the most magnificent things I’ve seen in a long time.

If you missed it, Glasgow City Council announced that anti-vaxxers will be denied access to the council’s social media pages during the pandemic.

Why have they done this?

Because they see we’ve reached a critical point in the pandemic. An inoculation is near to deployment and we need people to be inoculated.

That quite simply is the path forward.

What’s standing in the way are people who believe a dangerous rainbow of falsehoods. That COVID-19 is a hoax, victims are acting, that it’s just flu, the figures are being gamed and it’s all a ruse by Big Pharma, Big Government and the Deep State to control what we are doing.

It is utter bollocks.

Not only is it utter bollocks but its utter bollocks that is killing people.

You can verify the list of claims if you’ve time. No, there’s no evidence mercury in the COVID-19 treatment is harmful. The recovery rate is not 99.97 per cent. Yes, lateral flow tests are accurate 99.68 per cent of the time. No, Bill Gates is not behind COVID-19

It goes on and on.

Many of the claims are so lurid that its tempting to dismiss them as the work of cranks who won’t be believed. The thing is something crankish left unchallenged takes root like weeds in a garden. Someone who gives credence to the idea the world is being run by elites in Hollywood who are at the centre of a child-trafficking ring has been elected to Congress.

In the UK, 30 per cent say they regularly saw misinformation 12-weeks into the pandemic, according to Ofcom data. More worryingly, Ofcom also say that 46 percent saw misinformation supporting anti-vaxx arguments as opposed to 23 per cent who saw counter statements. 

This stuff matters.

But freedom of speech?

A good test for freedom of speech is the US legal principle of shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded cinema. If someone does that there could be a stampede and people could be injured or worse.

Here, people are shouting ‘fire’ in a cinema.

What can the public sector do?

So, the minimum that the public sector can do is follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and be zero tolerance for misinformation that will harm people.

But as much as I love Glasgow’s stance, nine per cent of the city’s population like their city council’s page. 

Sure, the UK Government as well as devolved Governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales can drive an information campaign to explain with crystal clarity the procedures taken to test the safety of the vaccine. It can even run something against aniti-vaxxers. It could even pressure social media channels to take down accounts which promote such misinformation.

But that doesn’t fill al l the holes in the bucket.

Here’s a hole that needs filling: news sites’ comments

On the first COVID-19 story on the Glasgow Herald’s Facebook page there is someone scoffing at the idea that the virus is a problem.

Elsewhere, newspapers are looking to the pandemic for clicks. Masks, inoculations, victims. They’re all up for grabs. Let’s say the newspaper’s intetntions are honorable.

The comments sections on Facebook are not.

Balanced debate is stiffed by rancid comments.

Victims are mocked. Sufferers are pilloried. Anyone who disagrees are ‘Sheeple’. It is a filth that does the name of journalism no good. 

Worse than that, it will kill.

The biggest hole that needs filling is with newspapers and their failure to police their online comments.  

I get why their reporters may be not be entering into their pages with enthusiasm. There’s fewer of them. Comments are 24/7. Reporters can have a hard time from trolls online. It’s a cess pit. But in this life and death struggle newspaper executives need to act.

This is literally life or death.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

I have always been very open about my mental health. From a young age, I struggled with confidence, bullying, and sadly, self-harm. I strongly believe though that this greatly contributed to the empathetic and emotionally supportive person I am today.

I figured I would put my creativity to good use to create a sticker that represented how I feel about my work and something that I am close to – what better theme than mental health.

Getting inspiration from Twitter

Whilst perusing Twitter I noticed a conversation between some civil servants about mental health and that how do people help others that might be struggling.

One senior civil servant commented that they seek out people that they can help, as by doing so it helps them feel better.

Initially, I offered to help someone (oh the irony!) who wanted to design some stickers around that mantra of helping others.

I had a few conversations about what they wanted the design to feel like and we discussed font and imagery and messaging. The standard ‘client’ and designer back and forth that happens in a design brief.

Unfortunately due to busy schedules the sticker design process fell flat and lost momentum.

Until I started at the MoJ…

I’ve always been obsessed with a good sticker and in December 2019, shortly after joining the MOJ I felt inspired to have another crack at what I’d started.

I’ve spent the best part of my 17 year career working in the public sector. Often, working in the public sector is seen as less exciting work, fewer benefits – an inferior environment to the private sector.

However. We help others get things done that they need to, often in difficult times. I’m not saying we are superheroes, but…well…yeah I kind of am.

I used this idea of superheroes to create some new designs based on well-known superhero characters and pairing them with the phrase borrowed from the SCS on Twitter…

Find someone you can help

I created a bulk of designs for quite a few of the well-known superhero characters and had them printed by a company who created some wonderful quality stickers.

I wanted to give these to people – not just any people – those who genuinely have a desire to want to help people, that might go some way to helping themselves.

I sent quite a few around the MoJ Mental Health community group – have sent some to the civil servant who established the saying. But most recently I gave one to a best friend who has always been a bit of a rock to me in the past.

It doesn’t matter where people put these stickers, the fact that people can take such a simple message and use it to potentially turn someone’s day into a positive is truly a marvel* of human nature and compassion.

* (the pun wasn’t intended but at 3am writing this maybe it was)

Oh, but there’s a sequel!

Amanda Smith, our Head of User Centred Policy Design at the MoJ, who is an absolute hero in our community, said to me that they would love to see a certain superhero sticker that I hadn’t produced one for. Due to time (having had a baby) and funds (moving into our first home) I haven’t been able to create these.

But I will shortly be creating a commemorative sticker in honour of Chadwick Boseman who helped so many people in so many ways and was truly a superhero!

If you’d like to see or use the stickers I’ve created, please feel free to reach out to me!

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

We recently convened a group of senior leaders for a discussion on engaging and empowering communities. We wanted to share some of that discussion and insight with you.

Local government has for years accepted the idea that its role needs to be focused on facilitation rather than control, supporting change through ‘place leadership’ that builds on and shapes community assets rather than increasing direct service provision.

The pace, quality and scale of the community response as the country moved into lockdown was unmistakable. Individuals and groups — long-standing and new — have become a firm part of the wider response team valued by residents, local authorities and charities alike. The question now is, how do we (all) sustain this?

Engaging communities

Bringing together a group of leaders across local government for a breakfast sharing session, a key emerging theme was that we’ve seen a positioning over time where many of those involved in — or passionate about — change find themselves either in the communities domain or in the organisation and institution domain. And the touch point between those two positions is often far too thin, each delivering important, but often fragmented, impact.

In many ways, our organisations and local partnerships don’t exist as they did before this crisis. In this discussion, attendees agreed that the pandemic and emergency response has changed the ways people and groups work together, both within public institutions and communities. More than ever, organisations and local partnerships should be seen as communities of people connected physically or virtually around purpose and place.

The pandemic has shown on a large scale what many of us closer to community engagement have long known — that communities instinctively act when called upon. Many turned to their expertise and convening power for practical support and reach — whether for getting your medication if you are shielding or, as a council, trying to understand how best to direct resources. As we saw, areas with impactful hyperlocal organisations, from town and parish councils to well-established sports clubs and food banks, were often able to respond better, quicker and more consistently during the crisis.

A shared ambition that came through loud and clear at this event was that public institutions must continue to engage effectively with community groups as they look to recovery, creating a future where shared forms of decision-making and transparent ways of working — together with enabling technology — accelerates community organising, shares power between communities and the people we elect to better represent our interests.

The voluntary and community sector

Our event attendees shared how, during the crisis, volunteer and community groups had the scale and reach into communities that organisations didn’t always have. As we look forward, engagement with our diverse populations is critical in community decision making and local delivery.

Yet we’ve seen that working and managing volunteers in a crisis is difficult in itself and requires different skills, not always held or resourced effectively within a local authority. Organisations and individuals within our communities already have these skills and practices, and do important work around strategic foresight and imagination. Now we must harness that power for our institutions using coordination, cooperation and collective awareness of who is doing what, what’s working and — crucially — why. There was a real strength of feeling in our conversation that it is vital to collate and utilise shareable data of good examples across the country to inform better practice.

We often talk about skills, inclusion and access when it comes to digital, but this also needs to include data. We need to equip our institutions to understand data in the same way that they understand service delivery, sharing vital lessons widely to inform community action best practice, enabling others to adopt this in a tailored way.

Mutual aid through COVID

This year, we’ve each seen around us an emphasis on trust, the importance of networks and locality. It matters more than in recent years whether you’re close to a park, friends, and whether your street has a WhatsApp group.

While some of the groups who took on a leadership role locally will be well-known to their local councils, businesses and voluntary sector, other mutual-aid groups were entirely new, formed of citizens who cared and wanted to act, and had little to no experience of working with and alongside public institutions before. Trust that is typically built from collaboration over time had to be accelerated. A shared sense of mission, of purpose, helped achieve this but now it is for all parties to ensure that it is maintained and deepened.

If this succeeds, we can have a much more place-based approach without the bureaucracy and control challenges that would have been present before the pandemic. It is this mindset that is critical, and will make or break the long-term vibrancy and impact of joined up and locally-led change.

On the part of local authorities, an inwards-out approach could come all too naturally if resources and training aren’t there to support and enable community-led and/or shaped action. And for community groups, if an openness to others without experience or skills isn’t there, and a plan for developing them, their capacity may be at risk too.

Fundamentally, investing the time and energy in training key staff and community group members in how to grow, sustain, plan and deliver change together will be the difference between this opportunity being seized or lost.

We need new organising models

At a small community level, system change is essential. As we look to recovery, how might we rebuild not just better but entirely differently, whilst accepting that different places have unique characteristics? We must deliberately design new organising models and invite citizens and staff back into entirely new institutions, partnerships and community relationships.

It’s time to build on the radicalism seen during our crisis responses, placing it into new solutions in our institutions, not forgetting to consider what we do for the places which aren’t rich in social capital or council willingness and capacity to engage. Starting by finding a useful segmentation that lets us develop a range of off-the-peg solutions rather than relying on bespoke models everywhere.

2020 has proven that a change in our places is crucial, and our councils have proven that they’re perfectly positioned to act as platforms for community action. Working together with our institutions, local organisations and partners we can begin to transition into a future where people are truly connected virtually around purpose and place, organising for change that they believe in.

Transitioning to councils as a platform for community action was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

mySociety services help people be active citizens, whether by speaking truth to power, communicating directly with politicians, or demanding change on your doorstep —  and that’s true for the area of climate activism as much as it is for any other burning issue.

By listing some of the ways you’ve been using our services to help the climate, we hope to inspire others to do the same, and to consider new ways in which you might be able to use them to push the climate agenda even further.

At the beginning of 2020, mySociety made a commitment to the planet, adding Climate to our existing workstreams of Transparency, Democracy and Community.

There are many experienced and knowledgeable organisations already working to fight the climate crisis. Accordingly, much of our work in this area has involved teaming up with these existing institutions, to offer the skills we do have and which they are often lacking: data wrangling, service design, site development, research and so on.

But there’s another way in which we can be useful, with no extra development or resource required from us: thanks to our established suite of services, we can help individual citizens to take action. mySociety’s UK websites are already set up to help people find out facts, ask politicians questions, check how MPs are voting, and demand better for their local communities — all useful tools when you want to tackle climate change.

We’ve had a look at the ways in which you’ve been using our websites in service of the climate, and we’ve found a huge variety of examples. Take a look through, and you might be inspired. And, if you’ve taken another type of climate action through our websites, do let us know so that we can add it to our list!

Changes in your neighbourhood

On FixMyStreet, we’ve seen people pointing out eco-unfriendly practices to the council, and asking for new amenities that would help locals to pursue a greener lifestyle.

Trees filter air pollution, absorb carbon and provide shade, so it’s possible to argue that every tree is a benefit to the community. As Friends of the Earth advise, that’s all the rationale you need to lodge a request for a Tree Preservation Order, which means that an existing tree cannot be removed without reason. 

Or perhaps there simply aren’t enough trees where you live? Then you can write to your council and request that new ones are planted.

We know that climate change is driving bees away, so those who ask their councils to leave roadside verges unmown and allow wildflowers to grow are also doing their bit to help offset the damage. 


Meanwhile, WriteToThem can be used by any campaign which wants its supporters to email their politicians, and there are many with an environmental or climate agenda who have done just that. 

Hyperlocal groups are campaigning against the loss of green spaces; the Possible organisation regularly rallies its supporters for innovative climate issues such as ground source heat from parks and better spaces for walking or cycling

Badverts wants to stop the advertising industry from pushing high-carbon products, and Power For People is pushing for non-profit clean energy companies.

And it’s not just campaigns that use WriteToThem, of course — tens of thousands of you use the site every month to tell your politicians what is important to you, how you’d like them to vote, or to alert them to wrongs that need to be set right. 

Emails sent through WritetoThem are private between you and your representative, though, so unless you tell us about it, we can’t know what you’re writing about. All the same, we can say with absolute certainty that many of you are expressing your concerns about the climate — it’s such an important topic that you must be. 

Requesting information

Many councils declared a climate emergency in 2019 — but what does that mean in real terms, and what comes next? If your council hasn’t published its Climate Action Plan, and you want to ascertain whether they actually have one (or are perhaps working on it) then a Freedom of Information request might yield answers, and plenty of people have used WhatDoTheyKnow for just this purpose.

Or, if the plans are already written and available to the public, there’s still lots more that might need disclosing: are they being adhered to and working as intended? And are the budgets accurate and adequate? How is money actually being spent? 

This request enquired whether the commitment to the climate went as far as divestment from fossil fuels, and this one dug into whether a council was using renewable energy sources.

FOI can be used in a huge variety of ways: for example, to collect disparate data from multiple authorities to make up a coherent dataset showing a nationwide picture — like this one, on behalf of Amnesty International, finding out how local authorities were reacting to childrens’ climate strikes.

Thanks to our Alaveteli software, organisations all over the world are running sites like WhatDoTheyKnow that allow their citizens to ask for information. In Hungary, the KiMitTud site uncovered a river pollution scandal; and on AskTheEU the VW emissions misconduct was hinted at long before the story hit the public consciousness.

Holding politicians accountable

FOI requests can take a while to be processed by authorities, so while you’re waiting you might like to do something a bit more immediate and look up your MP’s voting record on TheyWorkForYou

Each MP’s voting record includes a section on the environment, containing all parliamentary votes since 2010 that we’ve identified as relevant. The data — on policies from selling state-owned forests to higher taxes on air fares — comes from the Public Whip website, where votes are analysed and categorised. 

In the interests of stressing the importance of the climate emergency, we’re keen to give this Environment section more prominence and detail, but of course we can only include the votes that have been held, and even then only the votes that were recorded in Parliament — not those that were just ‘nodded through’ (see more about this here). However, we’ll be keeping a keen eye open for the key climate-related votes of the future.


The open data accessible through our sites can often be useful for researchers: one example of this is the TheyWorkForYou API, which allows for the analysis of everything said in Parliament, among other uses. 

As examples of what can be done, Carbon Brief analysed Hansard to see which politicians mention climate change the most; and the Guardian, using TheyWorkForYou, gave a more rounded score to each MP which also took into consideration their votes and interests.

So – that’s quite a long list, and just goes to show the breadth and diversity of the possibilities afforded by our various online services.

If you’ve been feeling helpless about the climate crisis, perhaps this will give you a little hope, and inspire you to take a few small online steps yourself, in service of the planet and our future. Please do let us know how you get on.

Original source – mySociety

Here’s a method I have used for the last 15 years to help me get on with my working day.

I do this out of habit at the start of the working day. I have had roles in the past where things can change overnight so I found too much planning the night before could be wasted.

I currently have the 4 calendars I am a member of, viewable simultaneously through the calendar app on my MacBook. I open that for reference. I have every session with other people in one of these calendars.

I write out the working hours of the day on a piece of paper, one hour per day, from whenever I start down to whenever I plan to end. I used to do this on a fresh page in my notebook, with the day and date at the top of the page.

A page of the daily planner pad. There are areas for Date, Daily Tasks, Notes, Grateful For and Rate Your Day.
A page of the daily planner pad. There are areas for Date, Daily Tasks, Notes, Grateful For and Rate Your Day.

I take a lot of notes through my days, this planning page can easily disappear from sight as I wrote notes as the day progressed. I am currently experimenting with a separate sheet from a Mål Paper Daily Tasks Planner Pad that I have on my desk or hung above my desk. You can download a template to use at home. Or just write it out on another piece of paper like I did until a few months ago.

A planner page, filled in.
A planner page, filled in.

I write out my calendar. Things that plan to take an hour or the best part of an hour take up the full line. Half an hour (or thereof), half the line. This gives me the chance to recognise the outcome of very session I am due to do, and check if there is anything I still need to do beforehand. In the absence of rooms in physical workplaces at the moment I usually write how the meeting will be held online too. Knowing how much you’re jumping between Google Meet, Whereby, Zoom, Slack and Teams calls sometimes helps.

I have found this exercise helps me acclimatise to the planned day ahead.

I then write a list of things I could do that day, in some sort of order by importance. This usually means referring to the previous day’s list. The order first time isn’t that vital. When written out the list is reviewed, and I sometimes number the items to help me prioritise. What really needs doing today? This stuff needs to fit in around the other stuff. Does any of it need doing before sessions already planned? What could wait until tomorrow? I write some into my hour by hour plan but most things are fluid. The key here: Knowing what I can do that day and what I cannot.

I also try to mark in a gap where I can have a break for 5 or 10 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon. When I work remotely, like now, those natural short breaks like when you walk from a desk to a meeting room are gone. I try to get several of these in a day so I get up and stretch my legs, and not just at the middle of the day. It’s more than OK to look after yourself too as part of your plan.

I leave at least two hours blank, for the unplanned. Regardless of your role plan for the unexpected. When you plan rigidly you will always be breaking it up. Tightly packed days leave me with a sense of inevitable disruption — and at worse a sense of duty to work extra hours to make up for the changes. My “to do pile” helps with this.

At the end of the day I look in my calendar briefly, at the next day, so I know what time my first planned session is. I make some notes on my day planner of things to be mindful of the next day. I shut down.

This exercise takes me 5 minutes every day. I always feel better after doing it.

Original source – Simon Wilson

In one of our dxw Earth meetings, we discussed a variety of things we can do to help address the climate crisis in our day to day work. Websites and how we host, design, and build them is one example.

What’s a website performance budget?

A website performance budget helps manage the environmental impact of a website by providing a set of goals and constraints, like:

  • the time taken to load and interact with pages
  • the quantity of assets such as images and scripts to download
  • rule-based rating against tools that test a website’s performance like Lighthouse and WebPageTest

Benefits of having a performance budget

You can predict how many resources are needed to host a website by defining a performance budget early on. Things like the amount of server space and memory will affect its overall performance. This can help guide everyone involved in the content, design, and development process to decide what goes into the site. Examples of these decisions might be:

  • which code frameworks and libraries, and how many, are used to help accelerate or streamline building
  • justifying the use of different web fonts across all pages and their time to download
  • how many images and animations will be used and how large are they collectively and individually

Where can we have a performance budget?

You can define a performance budget for a website beforehand or retrospectively. Any project where we’re delivering a new website, or supporting an existing one, is a good time for us to do this.

In the same way that it’s helpful to talk openly about financial budgets with our clients, talking about performance budgets helps people understand why this matters for them. We can also talk about any steps they need to take in managing user generated content that might impact on performance.

Using a tool like Performance Budget Calculator (which works best in Chrome), it’s possible to configure your own performance budget and compare that against another site.

Web performance versus environmental impact

Web performance matters for our environmental impact. There are a variety of factors from how a website is hosted and powered to how it’s delivered to users. The ever increasing size of websites and computer processing demands on our devices is also an issue.

This may compel many of us to upgrade and throw away technology regularly. This isn’t sustainable in terms of mining the planet for rare materials to make new devices. It’s not sustainable either for the disposal of old, redundant technology which is complex to recycle so often sent to landfill.

An optimised, lighter, faster loading website consumes less energy for users. This matters particularly on battery-powered devices and for users with pre-payed, limited, or unreliable electricity supply. Less energy consumption means less need to recharge devices and pay for more electricity. And that means lower energy consumption that’s better for the environment.

A smaller sized website with fewer assets and optimised delivery of content can also, bit by bit, help reduce the site’s energy consumption where it’s hosted. If more of our websites need less storage and memory resources overall, then there could be cost savings to us as well as performance savings for users.

Who benefits?

Showing clients how a web performance budget can help them reduce their environmental impact is a plus for everyone involved. And it’s a positive demonstration of a proactive approach to reducing carbon emissions.

Useful links

The post The environmental benefits of website performance budgets appeared first on dxw.

Original source – dxw

A GOV.UK page called "The Document Checking Service pilot".

We’re running a project to see whether organisations outside government can use real-time passport validity checks to build useful digital services.

We’re doing this by making the Document Checking Service (DCS) available to a group of companies until summer 2021.

This project aims to reduce barriers to users being able to do things online – in particular, being able to prove their identity easily and safely.

The DCS helps users prove their identity online

When a user creates a digital identity account with GOV.UK Verify, they can use their passport or driving licence to help prove who they are.

If someone provides these details, they’re checked against government records to see whether they match a valid document. These checks are performed using the imaginatively named Document Checking Service (DCS).

The DCS compares the document details with records held by government agencies, and responds with whether or not a valid record for the document exists. The response is only  ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – no other information is returned or shared.

A DCS check is useful because it lets you check whether a document is valid in real-time without needing to examine its physical security features, such as watermarks or holograms.

It’s hard to check these kinds of security features over the internet. For example, a photo of a passport hologram taken on a mobile phone camera may not be high enough quality to tell whether the hologram is genuine or a forgery.

Document checks are useful combined with other information

A DCS check on its own doesn’t prove someone is who they say they are. Identity checking services (known as ‘identity providers’, or ‘IDPs’) perform some other checks to establish this. For example, they might ask a user to take a short video of themselves on their phone and match the image against the photo on their passport. There’s more information about how to prove a user’s identity online in the publication ‘Good Practice Guide 45 (GPG45)’.

However, knowing that there is a valid record of the user’s passport or driving licence helps the IDP be more confident that the user is indeed the user. For example, if a passport gets stolen, a DCS check will stop someone else being able to use it to create an identity account.

The DCS also limits the amount of data that gets shared about the user’s document. The user provides the document details to the IDP, which forwards them to DCS. DCS returns only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in response.

There’s more information about how the DCS works, including the encryption and signing it uses to help keep data secure, in the DCS technical documentation.

Organisations outside of government check against passport data for the first time

Until now access to the DCS has been limited to the GOV.UK Verify IDPs. They’ve also only been able to use it to help users create digital identity accounts.

This is changing with the DCS ‘pilot’ project.

The pilot is a cross-government collaborative project run by teams from Government Digital Service (GDS), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO), who all form the DCS team.

Under the pilot, companies are able to use DCS checks as part of their own digital services. 

Some of these services will allow users to create digital identity accounts they can use elsewhere on the internet, while others will use the DCS check to speed up processes that involve checking whether a passport is valid, such as pre-employment checks.

The companies taking part in the pilot are only able to use the DCS to check passport details that users have given them – they can’t access any other data about the passport or find out about other passports in the database. If a user chooses not to give their consent, these companies will have other ways to verify their identity (as mentioned above). All companies taking part had to prove they meet security and privacy standards.

You can find out which companies are taking part in the pilot on GOV.UK.

We want to learn how we might improve this service

The DCS pilot will test the current technological infrastructure needed to provide document checks. We’d like to learn from organisations taking part in the pilot about how we might improve the DCS application programming interface (API), without compromising the security necessary for handling passport details.

We also want to estimate how much market demand there is for DCS checks, see what services are built to use the checks, and find out about how users feel about using their documents in this way.

We received the first live DCS checks from organisations participating in the pilot in October. More will be building working technical connections over the autumn.

Original source – Government Digital Service