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Updated assisted digital guidance in the Government Service Design Manual

The Digital By Default Service Standard came into full force this month. We have updated the Government Service Design Manual to help services understand and meet the requirements of criteria 10:

Assisted digital

Assisted digital is support for people who can’t use online government services independently. This support will make sure that these people can access and complete government services online.


Updates to the manual

We have made updates to three pages in the Government Service Design Manual that focus on assisted digital.

The guide to assisted digital

This gives a detailed view, including what good assisted digital looks like. The guide also explains how assisted digital differs from (and relates to) digital inclusion, digital take-up (sometimes called channel shift), and how the government will become digital by default.

The assisted digital action plan

This shows service managers how to develop assisted digital support as part of their digital by default service, and how to meet the requirements of the service standard at each development phase.

Researching assisted digital users

This page gives extra guidance on how to research the specific needs, barriers, and challenges of assisted digital users, and how researching them differs from research into digital service users.

Requirements of services

With the Service Standard now in full effect, we will be carrying out a far more robust assessment of services’ plans for assisted digital provision. We will look in detail at the evidence service managers have gathered to support their plans.

Assessors have a set of prompts for assessments at each phase of service design, helping them to get the best information from the service manager about how the service meets the Service Standard. These are shared with service managers in advance of assessment.

By the end of Alpha

The focus here is on making plans that are based on high quality research into assisted digital user needs and volume.

Assessors will look for evidence from service managers including: learning from research; expected amount of assisted digital support required; barriers for assisted digital users to using the digital service independently; plans to test assisted digital support; and funding plans to ensure free and sustainable assisted digital support for users.


The focus here is on having plans for full assisted digital support that meet user needs and volume, including piloting that support as part of wider beta testing.

Assessors will look for evidence from service managers including how learning from user research has informed their assisted digital support; timelines for getting assisted digital support in place; expected volume and costs by channel during the beta and when fully live; joined up and consistent support across central government transactions.


The focus here is on support meeting user needs and volume to at least the minimum service requirement, and ongoing monitoring of users' changing needs.

Assessors will look for evidence from service managers including: how assisted digital support has been tested and iterated during the beta; how assisted digital support provides value for money and that volumes and costs are in line with estimates; how performance of assisted digital support is being measured; users are aware of the assisted digital support and can access it easily; the assisted digital support is trusted by users with positive feedback and a good end-to-end user experience.

We’d like to thank everyone who helped us with this update, and we look forward to working with government departments putting high quality assisted digital support in place.

Follow the assisted digital team on Twitter.

Email the assisted digital team for further information.

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  1. Comment by simonfj posted on


    You reckon your eyeballs are burnt out. You should see mine.

    Imagine. I've got to try and stay across all the goings on in the various GDS (and GCN) teams, and that's just in one National silo. e.g. Your mates over at the ec are trying to do much the same,,, without the GDS culture. and a single language. And there are a few other gov assisted digital/inclusion teams which hang of that one.

    Anyway, if you could just keep in mind the development of the "learning environment" (LE). The penny will drop in humpty dumpty land before much longer by the looks of things. It is a bit impossible when we have all these groups with their various blogs (from two levels of gov in the uk space). But at least there's a blog roll on most of them. Thanks! Sooner or later we'll have to knock them into something like this.

    The local gov guys have their which is a bit rudimentary, and there's no thought about the RTC (real time comms). But that's pretty normal. Between the final spec of the groups' working environment (and there are hundreds of choices in the edu space) and the development of the IA stuff we should, hopefully, be able to come up with some shared (between networks) 'assisted digital' services. Hopefully in this generation, not the next.

    P.S. You know you do your best thinking when you're asleep don't you? I'm always thinking 🙂
    Now. I'm off to get a haircut too. Cheers!

  2. Comment by simonfj posted on

    Just terrific Ben,

    THAT was the missing piece (I've been looking for).
    So now we have the ten commandments:) Just joking. This really is very good.

    Would you consider one thing now, as "assisted" is as much about building a new culture "internally" as "externally". As you say "It may be being paid (provided would be nicer) for by:
    a different government department
    a non-government funding body
    charitable donations
    the citizen" ("buddy" if this was for U.S. consumption)

    You've listed the assisted (remote) digital channels (that are usually used so far). Phone, chat. And this is going to expand as we start incorporating stuff like WebRTC, if e.g. we want a pop up video screen for dumb/non-speaking sign users.

    At the moment you've got the link at the top of most pages to "Tell us what you think", which at present leads to a survey. OK. But could we consider the idea of linking to online forums (as just one component/element/tool of the assisted digital support services). We're coming down now to trying to figure out how the online support might best work for users at very different stages of online education, with different preferences (for tools).

    That's best considered as a group's/team's working environment. (bottom of page). I'll just flag this for consideration by your team. We can't rush at which combination of collaborative tools is going to gain broad social support, especially at teams will be composed of both insiders and outsiders (to various departmental networks).

    Maybe we should, rather than talking about "assisted digital support service", just talk about "digital learning environment" as it's closer to encompassing the ideas which have been buzzing around the edu space for ages. You might have to employ some 12-year-old apprentices to provide us with their user requirements 🙂

    BTW. I like the way you introduce your team on your blog. (although Catherine's looking a bit yellow, and Alan needs a haircut and a good sleep). Good looking bunch. Still haven't got my head around these new titles/roles. But new cultural roles are always impossible to describe. I hope you don't mind me wanting to be called a digital "citizen" rather than "user". It may not seem important at the moment. But eventually I want to have one account to sign on to all these services (including these blogs), and so will everyone else. Cheers!

    • Replies to simonfj>

      Comment by Alan Rider posted on

      Thanks for this great feedback Simon! btw I've had the haircut and am still aiming to fit in a couple of lie ins to catch up on sleep, but there is just so much going on in the GDS assisted digital space!