Dear Cabinet Office,
I have raised this FOI through whatdotheyknow.com to provide visibility and tracking of the request. I am seeking to understand why GOV.UK Pay does not include functionality for cash payments and face-face support and learn from that team's research into the topic.
I am raising the FOI due to the lack of response to a public tweet to the relevant product manager, as there is no public service standard assessment for GOV.UK Pay, and as there is no mention of cash or face-face support in the documentation (1).
GOV.UK Pay is part of the Government Digital Service (GDS) platform programme. GOV.UK's product page says that it is designed to make it easier for government to process online payments and citizens to make them (2). GDS's remit and the service standard covers all public services through all channels, it is not only about online services. The service standard starts with the requirement to understand users and their needs, and provide a joined-up service across all channels (3).
The UK Government recently committed to " supporting digital payments and safeguarding access to cash for those who need it" following an investigation into cash and digital payments (4).
This commitment follows other reports such as the independent Access to Cash Review which stated that around 17 per cent of the UK population—over 8 million adults—would struggle to cope in a cashless society (5). And the House of Commons Treasury Committee report on Consumers' Access to financial services which noted that closure of bank branches, where people receive face-face support, are more likely to impact vulnerable people, such as older consumers or those on lower incomes, and that IT failures also mean that banks cannot rely on their online and mobile channels replacing their physical presence through branches entirely (6).
I suspect the same arguments apply to government. It would be possible to build better services for people who want/need to pay cash in person, and create a more resilient government. I would like to learn from government's research on this topic.
I recognise that there are cost limitations on FOI responses. I would be grateful if you could provide answers to the following questions, if the cost becomes too much please answer the questions in sequence:
i) A yes/no answer as to whether the GOV.UK Pay team have investigated the user needs for cash payments to government
ii) A yes/no answer as to whether the GOV.UK Pay team have investigated the user needs for face-face support when making payments to government
iii) Documentation from the research into the need for cash payments to government (this documentation should have been provided as part of the service standard assessment)
iv) Documentation from the research into the need for face-face support when making payments to government (this documentation should have been provided as part of the service standard assessment)
v) A link to the product roadmap indicating when cash payment and face-face support capabilities will be added to GOV.UK Pay
CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE: FOI328141
Dear PETER WELLS
Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received
on 17/6/2019 and we are considering if it is appropriate to deal with
under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
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E: [Cabinet Office request email]
Dear Mr Wells
The Government Digital Service team has asked if you would be content for
them to pick this up with you directly at official level, so they may link
you in with the relevant people to discuss your request. Please let us
know if this is OK with you and provide the best means of contact to do
London, SW1A 2AS
E-mail -[Cabinet Office request email]
1. mailto:[email address]
Dear Cabinet Office FOI Team,
Yes, I would be happy to pick up directly with the relevant people, although I remain keen for the information to be made as openly available as possible.
My contact information is via the twitter username in the tweet in the original FOI request  or <mytwitterusername> @gmail.com.
Please find attached the reply to your FOI request
Providing the ability to use cash to pay for government services was
included in the Alpha project for GOV.UK Pay. The test prototype gave
users a barcode to take to a PayPoint terminal, if they indicated they
wanted to pay a government service using cash. Usability testing was
carried out on the prototype but not with users who typically rely on cash
payments, since the prototype tested a wide range of payment types. These
users struggled with aspects of paying by PayPoint, as presented in the
prototype. This has generated a list of areas for future research.
Other government services (DWP and Insolvency Service) also did usability
research on the prototype which included PayPoint, with the target
audience. They found that users liked that they could initiate payment
online via Paypoint. These services felt it was a valuable payment option.
Questions remain around the intersection of digitally excluded users and
users who prefer to, or are only able to pay using cash. Research
indicates that there is a significant overlap between non-digital and
cash-only users. The prototype gave users a chance to pay using cash, but
assumed that they would be able to access an online service. Further
research is needed to understand 1) the size of the digitally excluded and
cash-only population and 2) the population of users who can use online
services but need to pay in cash. This would inform the utility of
including cash payments as a payment method provided by GOV.UK Pay,
which is an online platform. If the size of 1) is significant and unlikely
to change - even with regulatory support for increased broadband access -
this casts doubts over the benefit of providing this payment channel
via GOV.UK Pay.
Cash payments have not yet been developed further in the beta
stage. GOV.UK Pay was initially only serving central government, where
the use of cash-payment services is currently limited to just one
department. Our roadmap is based on the collective needs of government
services, so this work was not prioritised. However, GOV.UK Pay now
works with a broader array of public sector bodies, including local
authorities, where cash payments (using services such as PayPoint) are
much more prevalent.
GOV.UK Pay constantly reviews the needs of users, so access to cash
payments could be integrated into the platform in future. We have noted
the findings of the Ceeney Access to Cash Review, the House of Commons
report on Consumer access to financial services, and HMT’s Cash and
digital payments in the new economy report."
London, SW1A 2AS
E-mail -[Cabinet Office request email]
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