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Delegate authority #18

govuk-design-system opened this issue Jan 12, 2018 · 8 comments

Delegate authority #18

govuk-design-system opened this issue Jan 12, 2018 · 8 comments


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@govuk-design-system govuk-design-system commented Jan 12, 2018


Help users give someone else permission to use all or part of your service on their behalf.

Example of 'Lasting power of attorney' service

screen shot 2018-02-20 at 12 27 20

Example of 'Agent authorisation to deal with HMRC'

screen shot 2018-02-20 at 12 28 13


Anything else

@govuk-design-system govuk-design-system created this issue from a note in GOV.UK Design System Community Backlog (Agreed) Jan 12, 2018
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@ignaciaorellana ignaciaorellana commented Feb 21, 2018

Note recovered from the master list spreadsheet from @abbott567 "On bereavement we definitely have a need for this. Our UR indicates people are not in the right head space to deal with lots of forms."

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@joelanman joelanman commented Feb 21, 2018

There's probably a related concept of 'Doing something on someone else's behalf' - do we have a pattern for that in the backlog?

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@timpaul timpaul commented Feb 21, 2018

I think our assumption was that it would be part of this pattern. Would we ever want someone to read one and not the other?

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@joelanman joelanman commented Feb 21, 2018

I'm not sure you'd always need to delegate authority - for example apply for a child's passport?

@timpaul timpaul added the candidate label Mar 5, 2018
@timpaul timpaul added pattern and removed candidate labels May 21, 2018
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@soupdragon99 soupdragon99 commented Mar 8, 2019

Dropbox Paper audit

On 8th March 2019 the Design System team reviewed a Dropbox Paper document discussing the delegate authority pattern.

The aim was to reduce the number of places containing guidance and code by:

  • migrating relevant, useful content into the Design System itself
  • recording important research findings in the community backlog
  • removing the original Dropbox Paper page

Below is a record of the outcomes of that review.

If you need to, you can see the original Dropbox Paper content in the internet archive.

Review outcomes

Updates to the Design System

The Design System team combined the related draft guidance from Dropbox Paper with this backlog item.

Delegate authority


Help your user nominate someone to act on their behalf. For example:

  • taxpayers who want an accountant to do their tax returns
  • farmers who want a family member or an agricultural agent to deal with their CAP claim
  • buyers or sellers of a property who want a solicitor or conveyancer to act for them.


  • CAP-D is using Verify to delegate responsibility to agents
  • HMRC Trusted Helper is using a different system to allow delegation of some tax submissions
  • Apply for an Emergency Travel Document (see below)


When to use this pattern

Use delegation if your users need to legally nominate someone else to use your service on their behalf.

Don’t use delegation for simpler situations, for example where a friend or family member is helping someone use a service who is present at the time.

How it works

Carefully consider the design

Delegation is complex and can leave users confused if it’s badly designed. Consider the following when implementing this pattern and make sure you do user research:

  • how will authority be granted?
  • who initiates delegation?
  • how are the parties involved notified?
  • can one of the parties be a business (e.g. delegating some things to a company secretary)?
  • can they see and do everything that the user can?
  • how can authority be revoked?

Clearly distinguish between the main and delegated user

If there are ‘agent’ and ‘client’ views of the service, clearly distinguish them so that agents are clear which version they are viewing.

Use pronouns clearly and unambiguously. It should be obvious whether ‘you’ refers to the user or to someone acting on their behalf. If in doubt, use people’s names to remove ambiguity.

Notify the main user when someone does something on their behalf

The main user should be informed when a delegated user performs an action on their behalf. The notification method should be appropriate to the significance of the action. Read more on +Sending notifications by email, text message or letter.

Keep a record of who performed which actions

You’ll need this if there are any disputes. Consider letting the main and delegated users see the record, but be careful not to expose sensitive personal information.


Lasting power of attorney


Agent authorisation to deal with HMRC


Research about this pattern

HMRC Trusted Helper

The HMRC's Trusted Helper service had problems with confusion around logging into your own account as opposed to using a pseudo login and operating on behalf of another user. The problems were at several levels:

  • Verifying the relationship
  • Once the helper was acting on behalf of the user, identifying / signifying who was legally responsible for the submission was an issue.
  • The potential for confusion between user accounts was also there and showed up in testing.

The team developed the concept of an ‘Activity centre’ - a part of the service that both the main and delegated users had access to. The activity centre contained a record of all the actions performed and allowed the main user to authorise actions performed by delegated users. All participants were kept informed using email notifications.

Related patterns

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@msmithcti msmithcti commented Mar 22, 2021

On the Report wreck material service (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), some users delegate the responsibility of reporting their finds to a contractor. There is a range of different formats that this delegation can take, and for many users, it's not actually relevant at all. Delegating also doesn't alter the subsequent information captured by the service. So delegation is an important part of our service, but not a "big" part.

We've therefore intentionally created a minimal implementation that meets the majority of delegation needs without significantly altering the journey through the service (and causing undue confusion or distraction).

At the moment we've landed on a simple checkbox alongside our capture of personal details:
image (9)

We've additionally ensured we're being clear and consistent when asking for "reporter" information vs. "agent" information. Where capturing the agent's information we have used a warning to highlight that the person nominated will be given access to certain information (this is confirmed more formally through the declarations within the form).
Screenshot 2021-03-22 at 15 34 23

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@terrysimpson99 terrysimpson99 commented Mar 22, 2021

I'm intrigued by your use of 'County' as a field. People give a variety of answers when asked to state their 'County' (such as postal county, administrative county, ceremonial county, whether current or past).

How do you handle that?

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@msmithcti msmithcti commented Mar 24, 2021

@terrysimpson99, I'll be honest we've not given this much specific thought on our service. Our address capture was originally based on the pattern in the GOV.UK design system which does include a county field. That was about six months back now and we've not seen any users struggle with it during our research so it hasn't been iterated on.

Your question has prompted me to look into the pattern a little further and I found this:

Royal Mail does not need a county as long as the town and postcode are included. You should include an optional county text input so that people who do not know their postcode can give a valid address.

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