See job eligibility requirements: Water Security and Emergency Senior Policy Advisors

U.K. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Bristol, UK 🇬🇧

London, UK 🇬🇧

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 🇬🇧

York, UK 🇬🇧

Reference number



£39,439 – £47,039

National: £39,439 – £43,569 – London: £42,577 – £47,039.

For details of our pay on appointment policy, please see below under the heading ‘Salary’.

Civil Service Pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Job grade

Senior Executive Officer

Contract type


Business area

DEFRA – Environment – Water & Flood Management

Type of role

Operational Delivery
Risk Management

Working pattern

Flexible working, Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Number of jobs available



Bristol, London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York

About the job

Job summary

Are you looking for new challenge in a high-profile emergency response or policy environment?

Have you ever wondered who makes sure that water keeps coming out of your taps?

A resilient supply of fresh drinking water is essential for every citizen, business and for the environment. This is an exciting opportunity to join Defra’s CBRN, Water and Floods Emergency Division to help make the water system in England more resilient to a growing and diverse range of threats and hazards. These range from extreme weather to supply chain crises through to terrorism and cyber-attacks.

The roles are based in Defra, which is the Lead Government Department for the Water Sector in England, including responsibilities for water as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector.

We have 2 SEO roles available within the team. One will lead on security and CNI policy for the sector. The other will lead work to help enhance short-term resilience of drinking water supply and ensure effective response to unanticipated disruptions.

You will contribute to the emergency response to serious water supply emergencies which require national level interventions. This involves holding the pen on emergencies updates on a frequent basis.

Our important mission involves working closely with resilience teams across government in departments like the COBR Unit and the National Cyber Security Centre, Resilience and Emergency teams in the water sector, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and Government Ministers.

Job description

Role 1: Water security and CNI policy lead

The water sector is one of 13 critical national infrastructure (CNI) sectors in the UK, the effective functioning of which are necessary for the country to function and upon which daily life depends.

Privately owned water companies are responsible for the day to day running of their assets, but given their importance to the UK the Government needs to ensure risks are identified and adequately managed. These risks range from natural hazards such as floods and climate change, malicious threats such as physical and cyber attacks, and cascading impacts such as the loss of electricity supply having knock-on implications for the production of drinking water.

The key duties of your role will include:

· Working with other Government departments to understand and map interdependencies between water sector CNI assets and CNI in other sectors. These are things the water sector is dependent on (for example energy supply and water treatment chemicals) and things that are dependent on water.

· Working with water companies to share details of any interdependencies that are identified by other sectors such that their requirements are understood in the event of normal distribution failing (eg. due to a burst water main or problem at a water treatment works).

· A number of policy decisions will need to be taken as the above objectives are progressed. You will lead on managing and resolving these issues, and this will be the most challenging but also the most interesting part of the role. Which interdependencies are most important? What do we expect water companies to deliver and do we need to update the regulatory framework to incentivise or enable this? What timescales are achievable for upgrading resilience? How should any resilience and/or security upgrades be funded? How do we manage conflicting expectations from Ministers, industry or regulators for any of the above? How do we make decisions if information is incomplete?

· You will also lead on ensuring Defra’s legislation and security guidance to water companies remains fit for purpose. This sets the framework under which water companies keep their CNI secure, and under which our security regulator holds companies to account if they don’t.

The decisions you make will have real world implications for water company investments. You will need to work with both water companies and Ofwat, the economic regulator, to ensure the commercial and financial implications of decisions are understood, and that adequate processes and timelines are agreed for resulting changes.

Role 2: Resilience and response lead

The main duties of this role include:

· Help to ensure water supply is resilient and secure from disruptive challenges (which may include severe weather, infrastructure and supply chain failure or malicious attack, such as cyber and other terrorist related incidents).

· Horizon scan for imminent challenges to the water sector by working with industry and contributing to central government risk assessments, such as the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA).

· Identify and mitigate key risks to the water sector by working across government and with industry to ensure preparedness, where necessary putting in place and exercising robust government contingencies and plans.

· Support and help sustain influential relationships with operational leads in the water companies and across HMG. Challenge and support the water sector’s planning for current risks to ensure appropriate action is taken to prepare for and minimise impacts.

· Lead the development of sectoral and departmental response plans for malicious and non-malicious risks which could adversely affect the water sector.

· Lead responses to cross-government commissions, Ministerial briefings and forward look documents at pace.

· Work as part of the wider emergencies team to provide an operational response function on behalf of the department.

For both roles you will need to successfully deliver in a fast paced, complex and sensitive area. All team members are expected to support Defra’s role as lead government department for water supply in an emergency, and you may also be asked to support the wider emergency team in the event of a national flood or Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear incident.

The response nature of the team’s work means there will occasionally be a requirement to work unsociable hours. You will be expected to join colleagues on an emergency duty phone roster and when on duty will be paid an allowance. This equates to around one week in every 6-8. 

We are a supportive and friendly place to work and have a very active approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. We are committed to recruiting and supporting colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds and with diverse needs, especially colleagues who identify as disabled, LGBTQI+, from minority ethnic groups or lower social economic backgrounds and those with caring responsibilities.

Person specification

We are looking for individuals who will thrive in a high profile, fast paced environment. You will need to demonstrate the following as part of your application:

  • Experience of developing clear and concise communications at pace. Confidence in engaging with senior stakeholders.
  • Ability to navigate complexity and ambiguity to identify critical issues and make evidenced recommendations with confidence. 
  • Experience of successfully building strong working relationships within and beyond own team, based on mutual trust and respect, including soliciting information at pace from stakeholders.
  • Evidence of maintaining wellbeing throughout difficult periods.
  • Ability to work confidently and effectively at pace.

If you are unsure if you fully meet the criteria for the role, please do get in touch – we’re very happy to discuss the recruitment process or the skills and level of experience required.


We’ll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Delivering at Pace
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Working Together

We only ask for evidence of these behaviours on your application form:

  • Delivering at Pace


Alongside your salary of £39,439, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs contributes £10,648 towards you being a member of the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme. Find out what benefits a Civil Service Pension provides.

  • Learning and development tailored to your role
  • An environment with flexible working options
  • A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • Civil Service pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Things you need to know

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles (opens in a new window), and will assess your Behaviours, Strengths and Experience.

Application Process

As part of the application process you will be asked to complete:

  • A 750 word personal statement detailing why you think you would be well suited to the role(s) and demonstrate how you meet the person specification. Please also advise if you would prefer to be considered for one or both roles.
  • Leading Behaviour: Delivering at Pace

Further details around what this will entail are listed on the application form.


The sift will assess the following:

  1. Leading Behaviour: Delivering at Pace
  2. Personal Statement

Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using just the Personal Statement. Candidates who pass the initial sift may be progressed to a full sift, or progressed straight to assessment/interview. 

Sift and interview dates to be confirmed.


At Interview you will be assessed on the following 4 behaviours and 2 strengths :

  • Delivering at Pace
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Working Together
  • Adaptable
  • Decisive

The interview process will include an exercise to help determine your ability to analyse incident response information and produce Situation Reports for Ministers and cross-government stakeholders at pace. No previous policy knowledge is required and all required material will be provided an hour before your interview slot, with the exercise contributing towards your score for the “Communicating and Influencing” behaviour. Further details of the process and timings will be provided to all candidates invited to interview.

Interviews to be held via video link.

Near Misses

Candidates who are judged to be a near miss at interview may be considered for other positions within Defra which may be at a lower grade but have a potential skills match. 


As part of the pre-employment process for this post, successful candidate(s) will be able to agree a contractual workplace from those locations listed in this advert. The agreed contractual workplace is then the substantive and permanent place of work for the successful candidate(s)

Where the location is ‘National’ the successful appointee should discuss and agree an appropriate contractual location in line with both Defra’s location policy and site capacity, prior to proceeding with pre-employment processes.

Successful applicants currently employed by the hiring Defra organisation for this post may choose to remain in their current contractual location or may choose to change contractual location to one of those listed above. This should be discussed and agreed prior to proceeding with pre-employment processes.

The agreed amount of time spent at a workplace for this post will reflect the requirement for Civil Servants to spend at least 60% of their working time in an organisation workplace with the option to work the remaining time flexibly from home. Working time spent at a workplace may include time spent at other organisational locations including field-based operational locations, together with supplier, customer or partner locations. This is a non-contractual agreement which is consistent with common Civil Service expectations.

Travel costs to non-contractual workplaces will be subject to departmental travel and subsistence policies. Travel costs to contractual workplaces are the responsibility of the employee.

The successful candidate is required to carry out all their duties from a UK location, and cannot do so from an overseas location at any time.

Defra includes the core department, APHA, RPA, Cefas and VMD.

Reserve List

A reserve list may be held for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made.

Merit Lists

Where more than one location is advertised, candidates will be posted in merit order by location. You will be asked to state your location preference on your application.


New entrants to the Civil Service are expected to start on the minimum of the pay band. The internal roles rules apply to existing Civil Servants, i.e. level transfers move on current salary or the pay range minimum, transfers on promotion move to new pay range minimum or receive 10% increase. Either case is determined by whichever is the highest.

Visa Sponsorship Statement

Please take note that Defra does not hold a UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) Skilled Worker License sponsor and are unable to sponsor any individuals for Skilled Worker Sponsorship.

Reasonable Adjustment

If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes. 

If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should: 

  • Contact Government Recruitment Service via as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.
  • Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional. 


If you are experiencing accessibility problems with any attachments on this advert, please contact the email address in the ‘Contact point for applicants’ section.

Criminal Record Check

If successful and transferring from another Government Department, a criminal record check may be carried out.

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstances some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading. 

Internal Fraud Database Check

Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

A candidate is not eligible to apply for a role within the Civil Service if the application is made within a 5-year period following a dismissal for carrying out internal fraud against government.

Higher Security Clearance 

Please be aware the levels of national security clearance are changing which may impact on the level needed for this role by the time of appointment. All efforts will be made to keep candidates informed of any changes and what that will mean in terms of vetting criteria. For more information please See our vetting charter.

Given the sensitivity of some of the data you will have access to you will need to ensure you understand and follow relevant security protocols. For similar reasons you will already hold (or be willing to undergo) National Security Vetting to Developed Vetting (DV) level once in post. Security vetting will only take place after the receipt of a job offer.

Childcare Vouchers 

Any move to Defra from another employer will mean you can no longer access childcare vouchers. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.

People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities with settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities who have made a valid application for settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • individuals with limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain who were eligible to apply for EUSS on or before 31 December 2020
  • Turkish nationals, and certain family members of Turkish nationals, who have accrued the right to work in the Civil Service

Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s recruitment principles (opens in a new window).

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy.

Apply and further information

This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative.

The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment (opens in new window).

Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

  • Name :The Recruitment Team
  • Email

Recruitment team

  • Email

Further information

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, in the first instance, you should contact:
Government Recruitment Services via email:

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the Department, you can contact the Civil Service Commission: Click here to visit Civil Service Commission.




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