This report by Nick Hillman, former special adviser to David Willetts, attempts to explain the job of a departmental special adviser. Based upon the author's experiences in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills it provides an up-to-date outline of the life of a special adviser and considers important issues such as the balance between political and civil service roles, preparation and training, and accountability.

It makes a number of suggestions on how the role might be made more effective, including: introducing formal training, providing a clearer salary scale, clarifying the boundaries of the role, avoiding arbitrary number caps and creating a champion for special advisers to make the case for their role in the way Britain is governed.