Devolved administrations

In many respects, the devolved administrations function like the UK central government: an executive of ministers, each with overall responsibility for specific areas or issues, make decisions which are then carried out by civil servants (see The devolved nations). Most of the same general principles for engaging with central government agencies apply to the devolved administrations, therefore.

However, there are some organisational and procedural differences that are worth bearing in mind:

  • The administrations and attached civil services are much smaller than the central UK government, so the distance between citizen and executive decision-making is shorter.
  • They have a greater degree of organisational transparency. The Welsh Civil Service, for example, lists the names of the civil servants who head up policy directorates below the level of Permanent Secretary on its website (see here)
  • Because of the smaller sizes of the administrations, there are no junior ministers; you’ll be seeking to engage with the equivalent of the Secretary of State. This means you’ll be contacting someone with potentially a very big portfolio.

In addition, it’s important to be aware of, and sensitive to, the relationship between the devolved administration you want to work with and the UK central government. Make sure the issue you want to engage on falls within a devolved portfolio.

In this video, Dr Bethany Sinclair, Outreach Officer for the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland, talks about some of the challenges to making policy in Northern Ireland, and how academic research can help.

Engaging with the Northern Ireland civil service from Digital Media @ Newcastle on Vimeo.