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Press release: Special Advisers need better support and supervision, says new study from Constitution Unit

9 June 2014

The weekend resignation of Fiona Cunningham, Theresa May’s trusted Special Adviser, provides yet another reminder of how important Special Advisers are in Whitehall; but also of the inadequate arrangements for their support and supervision.  The need for better support is one of the main conclusions of a recent study by the Constitution Unit, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

“With almost 100 Special Advisers now working for the government, they have become an established feature in Whitehall,” said the Constitution Unit’s director Prof Robert Hazell.  “But people still tend to treat them as transient, undesirable, hoping they might go away.  They won’t.  We need to recognise they are here to stay, and move the debate on to how they can become more effective and more professional in their support for Ministers”.

To that end the Constitution Unit has produced a new Handbook, Being a Special Adviser, which is an invaluable guide for Special Advisers on how to operate in Whitehall.  “It is full of practical tips from recent and current Special Advisers on how to get the best out of the Whitehall machine” said Prof Robert Hazell.  “A new government next year, with a new cadre of Special Advisers, will need to provide much better induction and support if they are to hit the ground running.  Our Handbook is designed to do precisely that”.

Notes for Editors

  • The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London.
  • ·The Handbook Being a Special Adviser is published on the Constitution Unit website at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/publications/tabs/unit-publications/158
  • The main output from the Unit’s study is a book, Special Advisers: Who they are, What they do, and Why they matter, by Ben Yong and Robert Hazell, to be published in September by Hart Publishing. 

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