How does Whitehall really work?

It can be hard understanding the workings of Whitehall. There are multiple departments, plus all their agencies and arms-length bodies. The policy-making landscape is complex and involves Whitehall, external stakeholders and Parliament. This course will help to demystify how Whitehall works and will give you a good insight into the practices and processes that the civil service and Ministers have to work within.  

We will cover the informal and formal aspects of working in Whitehall, and some tips on working within and working with Whitehall. The course is suitable for those who are working in Whitehall who may want a broader picture, but also for those who need to work with Whitehall and would like to understand the civil service and Government better. The trainer will use case studies and personal experiences from a long Whitehall career to bring the issues to life.

This 'How does Whitehall really work?' is from our Policy Skills series. At the Civil Service College, we tailor our courses to each attendee’s role and organisations, ensuring that each delegate gets the most out of the training. Our courses and trainers are continuously updated and evaluated to ensure that we are always delivering the best service possible.

Key Training Features

Who Can Attend

Learning Outcomes

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Key Training Features:

  • Introduction to the Civil Service and the Departmental structure
  • Understanding how business gets done in Government and how decisions get made
  • Formal and informal aspects of working in or with Whitehall
  • How do Ministers operate?
  • Explanation of the interactions between Whitehall and Parliament
  • How does policy get decided and agreed?

Who Can Attend:

Civil servants and wider public sector employees who want an introduction to how the Civil Service and Government works.  Also relevant to private sector employees who need to work with Whitehall.

Learning Outcomes:

You will get a good understanding of how Whitehall and the civil service operates from a formal and informal point of view.  We will cover the relationship between Whitehall and Parliament.  You will have a good understanding of the different rules and responsibilities for civil servants, Ministers and Special Advisors.  We will also look at how to operate successfully within Whitehall (also how to engage with Whitehall if you are outside of it).

Visit the CSC Bookstore in partnership with award-winning publisher Kogan Page, offering materials in print books, eBooks and accredited soft skills eLearning courses. SAVE 15% on all Kogan Page books and ‘Creating Success’ eLearning Courses with KPCSC15. We also offer institutional savings too, just get in touch!



10:00 - 16:00


£595 + VAT


Westminster, London


5 October 2021 Book8

7 December 2021 Book7

In-House Option

This course is available In-House and can be tailored to meet your individual training requirements.


Lead Trainer

Jo Clift

Jo Clift

Jo Clift has 20 years of experience working at a senior level in the UK Government including the Cabinet Office. She currently helps organisations work with Government and Parliament.

Read Bio
Jo Clift

Jo Clift

Jo started her career as a communications professional and subsequently worked at the heart of government for over 20 years, mainly at the Cabinet Office. She has worked closely with many ministers over the years, including Lord Peter Mandelson and Sir Oliver Letwin. She also worked at Number 10 in the Prime Minister's Press Office.

She has delivered a wide range of policies and advised on multiple complex communications issues. Jo has also worked across a wide range of issues including strategy, Ministerial PR and high-level Board appointments, with the common challenge being making things happen across very large and complex organisations.

Jo Clift's government roles have included leading the Coalition government's ICT strategy, Head of Communications for the BSE Inquiry and creating a new model for corporate shared services across Whitehall. Jo also gained private sector experience as a senior change consultant at Deloitte Consulting. This enabled her to gain a great set of change skills and valuable insight into the private sector.

In addition, she is a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts and a published writer on the Civil Service and Brexit.

Tailored in-house training

Civil Service College can deliver In-House training within your organisation that is exactly tailored to meet your individual training requirements.

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