141324 - Northern Ireland Office: Training (Answered)

Hywel Williams
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, what training his Department has provided to (a) general civil servants, (b) fast stream civil servants and (c) senior civil servants on devolution and inter-governmental relations; how many such courses have taken place; and how many civil servants have attended such training courses in each of the last five years.

Mr Shailesh Vara

All Civil Servants

Civil Service Learning provide a range of central learning opportunities, including online and face-to-face training, for all civil servants on Devolution & Intergovernmental Working.

i) The online Devolution & Intergovernmental Working module is for all new and existing civil servants, launched in November 2016. Through four online tutorials, video interviews with senior civil servants, and ‘take back to the office’ activities, it explains how the different governments operating in the UK work together, covering devolution settlements, decentralisation, City Deals and intergovernmental relations, as well as the ‘Devolution Memorandum of Understanding and Supplementary Agreements’. 646 civil servants have engaged with the online training since its release:



Total Engagements

















ii) The half day face-to-face Devolution & Intergovernmental Working workshop is also available to all civil servants. Building on the above online module, delegates learn from experienced professionals who have worked on a range of devolution matters about topics such as confidentiality, when to seek legal advice and the boundaries of devolution, where reserved and devolved powers meet. A total of 28 policy professionals have undertaken this training through two workshops, since June 2017.

Both the online and face-to-face workshops are included in the recommended learning for all civil servants working in a role related to EU exit. The online learning is included in the new EU Essentials for Policy Professionals programme, for those new to policy making or the civil service; and the face-to-face workshop is included in the EU Policy Practitioner Programme for those with more policy experience.

These programmes were launched in April 2018, with a total of 56 policy professionals undertaking the training programmes so far.

iii) Also available to civil servants are the EU exit: devolution settlements and intergovernmental working events. Delegates hear the views of Permanent Secretaries, and other senior civil servants from the devolved administrations and territorial offices, on intergovernmental relations within the current political climate.

Seven of these events have been delivered to 96 attendees across three Departments, since March 2017.

Fast Stream

Introduced in 2017 as part of Fast Stream policy learning, delegates take part in a Devolution workshop, which all brand new entrant centrally managed Fast Streamers attend as part of their Induction offer. This was delivered in 2017 to over 800 Fast Streamers. We've also delivered four optional Devolution workshops as part of Fast Stream Policy Base Camp to 150 year 3/4 centrally managed Fast Streamers over the last two years.

Fast Streamers are also required to complete the online 'Devolution and Intergovernmental Working' e-learning product as mandatory e-learning within their first year on the Fast Stream programme.


Each nation of the UK leads and hosts an annual SCS conference to learn from each other and build networks across the Policy Profession. These have been held on 28/29 April 2016 in Cardiff, 20/21 April 2017 in Belfast (this included Irish Government Civil Servants too) and 26/27 April 2018 in Edinburgh. It will be for England to host in 2019. All of these events each have around 100 participants across the administrations.

The Devolution and You program

Devolution and You was established in 2015 following a Civil Service Board commission and promotes greater understanding of devolution among civil servants and for better intergovernmental working across the different administrations in the UK. The program is led by Cabinet Office in partnership with the Scottish and Welsh Governments. It aims to build devolution awareness and civil servant networks across the One Civil Service through shared learning and knowledge exchange throughout the year.

The Devolution and You programme enables civil servants to strengthen their skill sets and build open and positive relationships as they engage in complex discussions across the One Civil Service. In 2017, the program trained over 2000 civil servants from across the UK through a variety of forums, including Civil Service Learning resources and through bespoke training;

 Local inductions for new starters;

 Departmental masterclasses, including tailored sessions for specialised teams such as communications, private office, policy and legislation;

 Civil Service Live presentations;

 Civil Service Local Devolution Masterclasses;

 Resource material available to civil servants across the One Civil Service.

We also work in partnership with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to run the One Civil Service Interchange program which supports these objectives by providing a platform on which civil servants can engage directly with their peers working in other UK administrations, through an immersive programme of work-shadowing and educational events over the course of a week. The programme runs three times a year, with the UK, Welsh, and Scottish Governments each hosting an annual event. Since 2017, the Northern Ireland Civil Service has also participated in the programme by providing participants to the events.

The most recent iteration of the UK Government Interchange Week ran 5-9 March 2018 and, with a record number of applications, it was the largest Interchange Week to date. In total, 83 Civil Servants from the Scottish (43) and Welsh (18) Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive (22) participated in a series of whole-group sessions and individual work shadowing across nineteen UK Government departments.

In terms of training provided by the department, a two-hour introduction to devolution was arranged for all staff in December 2016.

The department does not hold central training records for Northern Ireland Office officials in respect of these subjects.