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Special advisers

Special advisers support ministers, represent their views to civil servants and journalists, and help them get things done in government.

The role of special advisers is crucial – they support ministers and ensure that the civil service is not expected to provide political advice. But the role is not well understood and is sometimes maligned.

We look at how special advisers (also known as “spads”) work, what their responsibilities are and who they are. We also look at how they can be better supported to achieve their – and most importantly, their minister’s – priorities.  

Special advisers and the Johnson government

How Boris Johnson's changes to the role of special advisers disempowered ministers and undermined the quality of decision making in government.

Read the report
Boris Johnson with his then senior aide Dominic Cummings leaving Downing Street