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Policy Advisor, Political Affairs

Category : Government
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Location : Belfast , London
Salary : £ 30,989 - £ 47,591
Type : Fixed Term , Loan
Closing Date : 2021-05-19
Date Posted : 2021-05-09
Reference : 43576  

We welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including groups currently underrepresented in our workforce and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice. To find out more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice/about/equality-and-diversity

Inclusion and diversity

The Northern Ireland Office is committed to being an inclusive employer with a diverse workforce. We encourage applications from people from the widest possible diversity of backgrounds, cultures and experiences.

We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, as they are under-represented within the NIO at this level.

The Northern Ireland Office strives to be an inclusive employer and is recognised by its staff and externally as being an employer where Diversity and Inclusion are valued.

We hold a Diversity & Inclusion Charter Mark and are an accredited Disability Confident Leader organisation.

In March 2018 we won the award for Best Employer for Diversity & Equality in Northern Ireland (small employer category) in a Gala Award ceremony hosted by Legal-Island, a multi-award winning workplace compliance company based in Northern Ireland.

We have an active D&I network supporting colleagues through D&I Advocates, championed by our Directors.

We want all our people to feel valued for who they are and we are confident that you will find the NIO a warm, welcoming and inclusive place to work.

What we do


The Northern Ireland Office represents Northern Ireland interests at a UK Government level and UK Government interests in Northern Ireland.  We have a wide range of responsibilities, including: underpinning political stability in Northern Ireland; overseeing the Northern Ireland devolution settlement; leading on national security policy in Northern Ireland; addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past; delivering elections and constitutional reform in Northern Ireland; playing a key role in rebalancing the NI economy; representing NI interests, including  on the border with Ireland, as the UK exits the EU.  Our small size and diverse portfolio create a stimulating, fast-paced and challenging working environment, with regular engagement with a range of Ministers and senior officials.  We support flexible working and have a modern, flexible IT system which helps enable this.

About the Roles (team overviews and likely duties and responsibilities)

This is a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference for the people of Northern Ireland in delivering high-quality work on issues that matter, at pace and often in challenging circumstances. All post holders can expect diverse, interesting and rewarding work across a range of policy areas that goes to the heart of public service and you can expect to do this in a safe space where individuals and teams are supported to deliver and encouraged to innovate, challenge and learn. 

For all roles it is important that applicants have experience of working in a policy environment in Government, and applicants should have experience of successfully managing stakeholders with competing priorities. Key skills in these roles include the ability to explain complex information to stakeholders in a non-complex manner, strong communication skills and experience in evidence based policy making alongside an ability to grip new issues quickly, work closely with senior managers and/or Ministers and deliver at pace. 

All roles available will be stretching posts that will play a key role in helping to shape the future work of the NIO. As a small department the NIO operates as one team and alongside your immediate team and NIO colleagues, you will have the opportunity to work closely with a range of interesting  and high profile stakeholders including the NI political parties and NI Executive Departments, the Cabinet Office and the other Territorial Offices and key stakeholders in the wider NI political and business communities.  

Political Affairs Group 

The Political Affairs Group works to ensure a thriving democracy at all levels in Northern Ireland. We do this through our strong relationships with Northern Ireland’s political parties, the Executive, the Assembly and with communities and civic, voluntary and academic stakeholders, as well as engaging with international partners. 

The team supports the stability and peace brought about by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and its successors, and supports the newly restored institutions to survive and thrive to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. The team also oversees the delivery of the New Decade, New Approach agreement reached in January 2020.

The jobholder(s) will be expected to develop a strong expertise on Northern Ireland politics, and community issues, and the events, people and decisions that shape them. They will also play a key role in ensuring that the Northern Ireland Office and the whole of the UK Government maintains a strong understanding of Northern Ireland’s political events and their impact on UK Government policy and approach. 

The roles offer significant amounts of autonomy, and the post-holders should be comfortable with driving forward work and maintaining effective, responsive relationships with a wide range of stakeholders. 

  • Senior Policy Adviser, International, will provide policy advice on engagement with stakeholders in the US and Ireland on Northern Ireland affairs, and support the work of the British Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat.
  • Senior Policy Adviser, Programmes will lead the design and delivery of funding programmes which deliver on the Political Affairs group's objectives.
  • Senior Policy Adviser, Outreach & Engagement will develop relationships with NI community leaders helping to address community challenges and keep Northern Ireland safe.
  • Senior Policy Adviser, Civic Engagement & Programmes will lead on engagement with civic society partners, including faith groups, youth groups and others, while also supporting the delivery of funding programmes which deliver on our objectives.

Duties and responsibilities of these roles will involve:

  • Working with teams across the NIO to manage the delivery by UK Government of our commitments made under the New Decade, New Approach deal, as well as managing the governance arrangements under that agreement to oversee wider implementation of the agreement by all parties;
  • Shaping the NIO’s international engagement programme;
  • Actively monitoring and reporting on political events in Northern Ireland, including Assembly and Executive business, and using excellent political awareness and judgement to identify and communicate the wider implications of this on the NIO’s work;
  • Identifying risks to political stability in Northern Ireland, and working with teams across the NIO to manage and mitigate these;
  • Establishing and building effective relationships with civic sector groups (voluntary, community, youth, academic, faith, and local council groups).
  • Providing advice and briefings to Ministers and senior officials.
  • Supporting senior official/ministerial engagements with civic sector groups.
  • Explore options for investment in community outreach programmes.

Essential Criteria for all Roles:

  • Strong ability to see the bigger picture and to weigh up the pros and cons of various factors to give robust and accurate advice to senior leaders.
  • Strong written and oral communication and interpersonal skills and ability to present and disseminate analysis and recommendations effectively and persuasively to a range of audiences, including senior leaders or Ministers.
  • The ability to develop and maintain effective relationships with colleagues and a broad range of stakeholders.
  • The ability to work collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders and facilitate solutions to challenging issues. 

Desirable Criteria

  • A good understanding of the political environment in Northern Ireland.

Selection Process

The process for selection will be in two stages: application and interview.


The application is made up of 2 parts:

  • A suitability statement of no more than 500 words setting out how you meet the essential/desirable criteria.
  • Evidence statements of no more than 250 words on the following Civil Service Behaviours 

(We will assess these at Level 3 of the Civil Service Success Profiles):

  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Delivering at pace
  • Working Together

Should we receive a high volume of applications we will be sifting against the suitability statement and the lead behaviours of ‘Communicating and Influencing’ and ‘Seeing the bigger picture’.

More information on behaviours and success profiles can be found here.


The interview will be of a blended nature consisting of behaviours, technical skills and experience based questions.

Security Clearance

Candidates can expect to undergo CTC level security clearance to take up this post. SC and/or DV clearance may be required for specific posts.

Pay and Allowances

The successful candidate will adopt the terms and conditions of the NIO for the length of their appointment. 

A Recruitment and Retention Allowance is available for Belfast-based staff up to a maximum of £4,000 for Band B, bringing the effective band minima up to £34,989 (from £30,989).

This allowance is non-pensionable and subject to annual review in line with MoJ pay awards.

Neither Detached Duty terms nor relocation costs will apply to this post.

Further Information

Further information about the post may be obtained from 



You can apply for this post through the Civil Service website at: civilservice.gov.uk.  Once logged onto the site go to the civil service jobs page and then search for jobs in the Northern Ireland Office where the application form can be found.

Additional information received after the closing date will not be considered.  Failure to provide sufficient information in support of an application prior to the closing date will not be considered as grounds for an appeal if an applicant is not shortlisted for interview.

Home Civil Service applicants who, because of disability, need assistance in completing the application form should contact MoJ Shared Services on 0845 010 3512.

All applications for employment are considered strictly on the basis of merit.

This job description should not be taken as constituting conditions of employment.

Please note that due to the high interest in NIO opportunities, feedback cannot be given if you are unsuccessful at sift stage. Feedback is available on request if unsuccessful following interview.

Additional Information

Further information about us

We are a small and friendly department of approximately 175 staff.  Due to our size we are able to offer staff more exposure to ministers and the opportunity to work on a far wider portfolio of responsibilities than might be the case in a larger department.  This creates an interesting, though often challenging, work environment.

Other Benefits

The NIO offers a pleasant, modern work environment which allows consideration of a range of flexible working arrangements which support a good work/ life balance. These include flexible/ alternative working patterns, part-time and job-share options.

Benefits include:

  • interest-free season ticket and bicycle loans
  • Reward & Recognition scheme

Guaranteed Interview Scheme

The Northern Ireland Office operates the Guaranteed Interview Scheme, details of which are attached to the application form for this post.

In the event that we identify more appointable candidates than we currently have posts available, we will hold applicant details on a reserve list for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made. This may include roles at a lower grade. Candidates placed on a reserve list will be informed of this. Those candidates who do not wish to remain on the reserve list should contact MoJ-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@gov.sscl.com to be removed from the reserve list.  

Further information on civil service careers can be found at  www.civil-service-careers.gov.uk

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.  

Appointment to the Civil Service is governed by the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles. You have the right to complain if you feel a department has breached the requirement of the Recruitment Principles.  

Please contact SSCL (Moj-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@sscl.gse.gov.uk) in the first instance.

If you are not satisfied with the response, you may bring your complaint to the Commission. For further information on bringing a complaint to the Civil Service Commission please visit their web pages: 


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