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Peer-to-peer learning needed for local public sector reform – IfG

Allowing local government organisations to learn from each other is more effective than top-down government initiatives in improving services, the Institute for Government (IfG) has said.

IfG researchers spoke to those working in central government, local government and representative and professional bodies, and found them consistently complaining that guidance on improving and integrating public services focused on best practice, not learning from mistakes.

In a new briefing paper, it said the only way to avoid this was to encourage more face-to-face conversations between people on the same level but from different professional backgrounds.

Dr Jo Casebourne, programme director at the IfG, said: “Better collaboration between local organisations is crucial to improving public services. But those on the ground still don’t have the support they need. Particularly with money and resources so stretched, the government must invest properly and only fund programmes that we know actually work.”

A recent joint report from the LGA, NHS Confederation, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and NHS Clinical Commissioners said that integrated public services should be ‘business as usual’ by 2020, but warned that this may be harder to achieve because of funding problems.

The IfG said that government departments and national bodies should focus their limited funds on programmes that encouraged real-time learning from mistakes.

It also said that the growth of English devolution “provides an opportunity to reset the relationship between Whitehall and local government,” where Whitehall listens more to the lessons learned from local public sector reforms and grants powers as appropriate.

It also recommended that leaders of local public sector and professional bodies should do more to encourage staff to share concerns, including the greater use of cross-sector events to facilitate learning. For example, the challenges of health and employment integration could be addressed by bringing together nurses, social workers, GPs, employment providers and Jobcentre Plus staff.

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