Policy Profession – UK Civil Service Skills and Knowledge Framework 2013

… an example of Competencies

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Required competencies for policy professionals

In January 2013 the UK Civil Service (reference below, pdf on right) articulated the skills and knowledge required of policy professionals working in the government, stating that:

“A policy professional sees their career, learning and development anchored around policy work and seeks to achieve the level of competence, behaviour and status that goes with being professional in their work. Like all civil servants, policy professionals share a common set of transferable behavioural skills set out in the Civil Service Competency Framework (CSCF). As with expert professions such as law or finance, some roles require professional knowledge, skills and experience in policy and these are set out in the Policy Skills and Knowledge framework.”

Four areas of competence

“There are four areas of competence in the Policy Skills and Knowledge framework. They directly relate to the description of successful policy above. They are:

  1. Bring together evidence, politics and delivery to support ministers
  2. Evidence: Developing and using a sound evidence base
  3. Politics: Understanding and managing the political context
  4. Delivery: Planning from the outset for how the policy will be delivered

“Your level of professional policy skills and knowledge is determined against the framework as a whole – you are either developing, effective or strong.”

The policy profession skills and knowledge framework


I – Bring Together: Bring together evidence, politics and delivery to support Ministers in achieving outcomes for government

1 – Advise ministers, honestly, impartially and objectively, on the options that will work to help ministers make informed choices

2 – Consider and balance all three elements – evidence, politics and delivery – at whatever stage the policy is at

3 – Bring together often discordant information, manage the constraints of a given area and produce the ‘best available’ option

II – Evidence: Developing and using a sound evidence base
Investigate, assess and advise on the political and practical implications of government policy using evidence and ideas from a wide range of sources to meet required outcomes

1 – Compile, assimilate, distil, interpret and present a strong evidence base from a wide range of types of evidence and opinions to form a sound and compelling base to inform coherent policy making

• Establish and bring together relevant facts, figures, ideas, analysis and research

• Quickly develop and apply sector and subject knowledge, including the history of the area, to understand the problem and develop a robust evidence base

• Use evidence from lessons learned, evaluations, academic and other research, parallel initiatives, other sectors and internationally

• Recognise and engage the right internal and external expertise and understands their contribution

• Understand the legal context and legislative framework in which they operate

• Establish systems to incorporate evidence from accountability processes, the media and interested parties

• Understand the limitations of evidence sources and plan to mitigate gaps

• Present compellingly, effectively and concisely orally and in writing

2 – Understand and apply innovative approaches, techniques and tools that draw on a wide range of inputs and improve the quality and pace of the analysis stage of policy making where it is appropriate

• Draw on a wide range of inputs from the earliest stages of a policy cycle

• Understand the digital tools available to broaden the conversation

• Understand user centric approaches (where appropriate) to define problem and consider innovative solutions

• Understand and appreciate diversity in data

• Monitor ongoing validity of policy priorities in light of new evidence and ensure policies are evaluated after an appropriate time

• Familiar with and use policy processes i.e. risk analysis, cost-benefit analysis, business cases and impact assessment principles, policy appraisal (Green Book, including ROAMEF policy appraisal and evaluation cycle, and Magenta Book)

III – Politics: Understanding and managing the political context
Monitor developments in the political context and give timely, honest, objective and impartial advice and recommendations to respond to the changing context in which Ministers operate

1 – Understand political influences and government context

• Build collaborative, trusting and professional relationships with ministers, understand the source of ministers’ interest and allow for appropriate challenge

• Translate ministerial vision into a clear outcome, and develop a clear and shared understanding of what the problem is and what success looks like; test mutual understanding of the problem and goal

• Respond to change in relationship with ministers at different stages of policy development; balancing the political view with other considerations i.e. evidence and delivery

• Describe key arguments clearly both orally and in writing, predicting potential challenge and criticism

• Understand where issues sit within the priorities of government as a whole, considering impact on and implications for other policies, programmes and other government objectives,

• Manage policy conflicts effectively, identifying and making links across government

2 – Enable effective public administration

• Support effective cross-government decision-making

• Provide relevant and reliable advice and evidence to support ministers in making, explaining, defending and implementing decisions at whatever stage the policy is at

• Support ministers’ engagement with parliament and enable public accountability in their area

• Represent government policy effectively under close public and parliamentary scrutiny

• Ensure compliance with clearance processes, manage responses to political accountability and government control procedures and take legal considerations into account

• Deliver Westminster legislation and effective EU influencing and negotiating

3 – Understand and apply knowledge of the Civil Service and government context:

• The role of minister and civil servant and its implications in practice

• Government Budgetary cycle and public sector funding arrangements and models and their implications for government policy

• Parliamentary, legislative and election cycles and their implications

• HMT, Cabinet Office, No10 and Cabinet Committee decision making process and procedures

• EU, International, devolved and local government constitutional arrangements and their implications Aware of, and familiar with, current policy context and government aims (key areas list agreed by Policy Profession Board and reviewed regularly)

• Growth, reduce costs, tackle debts, prioritise spend, seek better deals

• Open public services, big society, localism through distribution of power

• Transparency, data and accountability

• Behavioural Insights

• Actively shaping EU policy

IV – Delivery: Planning from the outset for how the policy will be delivered
Develop sound policy, fast, in a public and political arena, and convert this policy into robust deliverable plans at whatever stage the policy is at, using creativity and confidence

1 – Investigate and advise on practical aspects of policy options throughout the life of the policy

• Advice includes full consideration of do-ability, feasibility, practicality (co-designed where appropriate) and affordability

• Where possible, develop policy thinking practically, using techniques such as prototyping and Randomised Control Trials

• Policy is designed and monitored to bring about the desired outcomes – and iterations are made continuously throughout the delivery phase where necessary

• Awareness of the processes of adjacent disciplines such as design, that are geared to the production of deliverable ideas

• Policy options are innovative, sustainable, affordable, commercially aware and offer value for money

• Policy options have their short and long term impacts assessed for the impact of potential future events and are able to respond to change

• Systematically identify issues that could affect implementation and addressing them/steps to mitigate gaps or weaknesses throughout the life of the policy

• Impacts, benefits, risks and adverse feedback are communicated when appropriate with communication that is compelling and engaging, timely & relevant, with robust arguments and clarity about the implications for policy in practice

2 – Policy is converted into robust delivery plans and then implemented and maintained collaboratively and accountably

• Monitor the performance of policy using accurate, timely and relevant, quantitative and qualitative assessments including incorporating feedback from the delivery chain and making the best use of the wealth of feedback generated in an era of “digital by default”

• Work with delivery partners inside and outside of government to resolve problems effectively, identify common efficiencies, and advise ministers on the changes that result

• Maintain political legitimacy, and mandate, throughout the life of the policy, working across government to co-ordinate progress towards shared objectives

3 – Familiar with and use strong systematic approaches to understanding how policies will, and are working, in practice

• Familiar with a range of techniques such as behavioural insight, customer insight and working with the frontline and delivery system to inform policy development including assessing the impacts on customers and frontline

• Build in, and use, policy evaluation right from the start, including Randomised Control Trials and other early feedback mechanisms, to develop an understanding of what works and adapt the approach

• Ensures that lessons learnt, including about what works, become part of the evidence base

4 – Consider a full range of delivery models to achieve the outcome

• Familiar with a wide range of delivery models including the system stewardship role of government

• Undertake system analysis including the potential and limitations of existing systems, building in and managing accountability whilst leaving maximum room for discretion

Definitions of policy, policy work, and good policy work

The document provides the following definitions:

What is policy work?

“Policy work is about delivering change in the real world. This is important and challenging work: the problems tackled matter to and have a real impact on millions of people both in the UK and abroad, and are often complex and deep-seated.

“That is why policy work relies on contributions from a wide range of colleagues in many different types of roles, working together as one team to achieve better outcomes and innovative solutions. It also depends on working openly and collaboratively with other parts of government, and with the private and voluntary sectors.

“Policy is political, this is democracy at work – political judgement will also be exercised in the decision making process.”

What is policy?

“Policy making is an activity intended to achieve the purposes of elected politicians in government. The ‘policies’ that this activity produces can be many different things including formal expression of activities undertaken by government to achieve outcomes e.g. through strategies, announcements, legislation, but also includes current practice, doing nothing, and political activity as well as activity that may not fulfil the goals of government in a simple and direct way.”

SuccessfulPolicyWhat is good policy work?

“Successful policy depends on:

  • the development and use of a sound evidence base
  • understanding and managing the political context
  • planning from the outset for how the policy will be delivered.

“Policy officials must bring together these three elements to deliver successful outcomes for government.

“There are four areas of activity where these three elements of successful policy apply although they don’t necessarily happen discreetly or in a specific order and engagement happens throughout:

  • Understanding the context
  • Developing the options
  • Getting to a decision
  • Making it happen
Atlas topic, subject, and course

Institutional Dynamics within Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Policy Profession – Skills and Knowledge Framework, UK Civil Service Learning, accessed 28 August 2016, at https://civilservicelearning.civilservice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/policy_profession_skills_and_knowledge_framework_jan2013web.pdf, accessed 28 August 2016. Summary graphic from: https://civilservicelearning.civilservice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/link_3_-_policy_skills_knowledge_-_curriculum_map_with_cpd.pdf, accessed 28 August 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 29 August 2016.

Image: Policy Profession – Skills and Knowledge Framework, UK Civil Service Learning, accessed 28 August 2016, at https://civilservicelearning.civilservice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/policy_profession_skills_and_knowledge_framework_jan2013web.pdf, accessed 28 August 2016.