Local authorities must be encouraged to co-operate rather than compete if services for looked-after children are to improve, a conference was told.
Paul Fallon, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services children and families committee, said local government had been run like a grammar school since the late 1990s, with a competitive “house system” involving “points, punishments and rewards”.
This had achieved better performance “up to a point” but had benefited only the better authorities and not those that were struggling.
Councils needed to co-operate across “artificial political boundaries” to provide placement choice for children with the most complex needs, he argued at the Baaf Adoption and Fostering and Care and Health conference.
And social care, education, health and the voluntary sector had to learn to work together because there was little “trust” across children’s trusts on sharing budgets, he added.
Fallon also called on the government to provide financial incentives to foster carers to allow them to afford a home with a spare room if they lived in expensive areas rather than be forced to move elsewhere.