He told a conference of the Association of Directors of Social Services that many departments had risen well to the challenge presented by the£9bn social care budget.
However, he also said random inspections found that safeguards to protect children were 'at best patchy and in some places wholly unacceptable'.
He added that there was now convincing evidence that poor services did not necessarily stem from lack of funding. Reports of joint inspections of departments by the social services inspectorate and the audit commission showed there was 'no clear evidence of a direct relationship between quality, finance and meeting local need'.
He concluded social services departments had to do more to improve their public image, and to avoid 'lofty claims about our work, as if to imply others cannot understand the issues or processes'.