News: When senior social services managers and councillors met at the ADSS social services conference in Harrogate, bed-blocking was the topic of the day. Tash Shifrin was there

Melvyn Bragg, that wellknown Lord and luvvie, was a speaker at the annual social services conference in Harrogate last week organised by the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Social Services, which brings senior social services managers and councillors together.

Yes, he of the South Bank Show and novels with steamy TV adaptations. But can this man unblock your bed? Possibly not.

Perhaps it was just as well that health secretary Alan Milburn had already announced£100m funding for social services departments this winter, with a further£200m to follow.A£45m chunk of the money will go to 50 'hot spot' councils with severe bed-blocking problems - but the way it is used will be tightly monitored as part of the 'cash for change' deal.

A team of seven 'change agents' will have£10m to 'support change and implement contingency arrangements where there are specific service problems'. But there is a recognition at the Department of Health that the causes - and solutions - to bedblocking are complex.

Chief inspector of social services Denise Platt says: 'We have looked in detail at some of the reasons beds are blocked - they're different in different parts of the country. There have to be very specific plans in different local authorities.' Monitoring and support will be tailor-made, she says. 'We'll be working with individual authorities on what targets they think they can achieve and agree with them arrangements for monitoring.'

But councils will 'have to reach agreement across health and social care - That is a given', she emphasises.