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Welsh Government Interchange Week 2018 ‒ our week in Cardiff

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Chris Neate, Andrea Long and Will Gould of Constitution Group within Cabinet Office recently took the opportunity to shadow the Welsh Government as part of the 2018 Government Interchange programme. They tell us about their experience.

Welsh Assembly

Welsh Assembly debating chamber
The debating chamber of the Welsh Assembly

The Interchange schedule included a tour of the Senedd (home of the National Assembly for Wales), and we watched First Minister’s Questions (the Welsh equivalent of PMQs) from the public gallery. A number of important issues were raised, including Brexit, removal of flammable cladding from high-rise buildings in the wake of Grenfell, and the Welsh health budget.

The Assembly discussed the recent renaming of the Severn Bridge after the Prince of Wales. Use of Royal names and titles is a policy area covered by the Constitutional Policy team in Constitution Group (CG), so it was a nice surprise for Chris Neate to hear the First Minister questioned about his own area of work.

We also attended a committee hearing where Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford AM (Assembly Member) was questioned by AMs. They raised numerous issues relating to the work of CG, such as common frameworks, the Joint Ministerial Committee and the Brexit White Paper.

Host team

of the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Exterior of the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Our hosts for the week were the EU Exit Transition Team, who are responsible for a broad range of areas, including future common frameworks, the secondary legislation programme (ensuring a functioning statute book) and state aid. They were very welcoming and provided a number of opportunities to learn about their work through presentations, shadowing and a Q&A with their director.

The team also arranged introductory chats with other department heads dealing with EU Exit, such as trade and agriculture, providing the opportunity to network and build relations with our Welsh Government counterparts. The Interchange organisers arranged several social events in the evenings so the attendees had ample opportunity to socialise and make contacts in Whitehall and farther afield.

Two men outside Cardiff Castle
Will Gould (left) and Chris Neate outside Cardiff Castle

Civil Service Live

On the Thursday, we had the opportunity to attend Civil Service Live in Cardiff. There were a number of interesting talks and exhibition stands from across the Civil Service. For us, obviously, the highlight was the Devolution and You stand, manned by colleagues from CG.

Overall, the Interchange week was a fantastic opportunity which we would highly recommend. We learnt a huge amount from the high-quality speakers, met lots of new people from three governments ‒ and the weather was great as well!

Applications for this year’s Scottish Government One Civil Service Interchange week are now closed. Successful candidates will spend a week work-shadowing colleagues in the Scottish Government.

This is a brilliant opportunity to get first-hand experience of how the Scottish Government approaches policy and delivery and deals with the challenges and opportunities particular to Scotland.

For more information about Interchange Week please contact Talia Robinson at

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  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Chris, Andrea and Will, thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds like it was a useful interchange in terms of future career development.

    As I was on leave last week, I took the opportunity to spend a few days in Cardiff. Not only did we visit Cardiff Castle but we also managed to make it to Cardiff Bay!

    I like the idea of interchanges that allow staff to travel out of the Whitehall bubble. It would be good if such offers enable staff to travel both to and from London to places like Sheffield, etc to see how they operate?

  2. Comment by Tim Rymer posted on

    I participated in last year's interchange and got a fascinating insight into the work of civil servants for the Scottish Government, in particular exploring the leadership and policy delivery challenges they faced. It's also obviously great for people to strengthen connections where working relationships exist already. It was great to come back and share my reflections, and I would strongly recommend it to colleagues.

  3. Comment by Nichola Stewart posted on

    Is it possible for someone working in England to take advantage of the Scottish Programme. I live in Scotland (work on English / Scottish Border) and currently looking at opportunities within the Scottish Government. This would be a fantastic opportunity for any Civil Servant.

    • Replies to Nichola Stewart>

      Comment by Zarah King posted on

      Hi Nichola,

      Absolutely! This opportunity is open to civil servants regardless of location.

      The scheme can be quite competitive, owing to limited places. As you are so close, it may be worth looking at a more informal scheme of interchange as well - potentially, one or two days of shadowing. We are keen to encourage both formal interchange such as the scheme mentioned but also informal everyday learning.

      Please let us know if we can help using the above email address.

      Zarah King,
      One Civil Service Interchange Programme

  4. Comment by Ross Dunbar posted on

    Wonderful, innovative idea and I look forward to the Scottish programme rolling out.

    • Replies to Ross Dunbar>

      Comment by Zarah King posted on

      Hi Ross,

      Many thanks for commenting on this opportunity. I hope you have applied for the Scottish Government scheme. Please email us at the above-mentioned email address for more information.

      Zarah King,
      One Civil Service Interchange Programme

  5. Comment by Rosina posted on

    What a great idea. In an attempt to answer a call for help in my specialised area from a colleague north of the border I am told that no one will foot the bill for my travel....... Support is needed on the ground now, not just in the clouds of benefitting someone in their rose tinted view of career progression.

    • Replies to Rosina>

      Comment by Zarah King posted on

      Hi Rosina,

      Thank you for commenting on this opportunity.

      We are aware of the need for specialist and wider everyday interchanges and opportunities for all, which is why this is something we are looking into and will be working closely with departments and professions to map out opportunities and areas for development.

      Zarah King,
      One Civil Service Interchange Programme

  6. Comment by Louisa Radice posted on

    Are there any interchange opportunities for civil servants in England?

    • Replies to Louisa Radice>

      Comment by Zarah King posted on

      Hi Louisa,

      At the moment there are only interchange opportunities between the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments. However, these are open to civil servants based across the UK, including those in England.

      Another possibility is utilising the Civil Service Local system, which is similarly looking at interchanges but at a departmental level. There is also a new initiative to shadow a department for a day. Please contact us at the email address above for more information on this or to put any other query to us.

      Kind regards,
      Zarah King, One Civil Service Interchange Programme