The Loft – a unique co-location of social, community and health services – held its official opening last month as over 120 guests gathered to celebrate and acknowledge the vision and purpose of this new centre on the first floor of Eastgate Shopping Centre, and its potential for supporting Christchurch communities.
The Loft is not just a physical space; it is also an innovative concept that is intentionally designed to enhance outcomes for children and families by making access to multiple services much easier and enabling staff across services to work more closely together. The partnership of social and health agencies operating here provides a unique co-location of multiple services that is already achieving its ambition to better support children, young people and families towards wellbeing.
The Loft comprises two key service delivery centres. Linwood Medical Centre is home to a range of health providers including general practice, pharmacy, physiotherapy, midwifery, district nursing, older person’s health and mental health services. Beside Linwood Medical Centre is a growing hub of social and community services that includes child safety, microfinance, parenting support, social work support and family and sexual violence services. Such a broad collection of services, seeking to work in truly integrated ways in the practical delivery of services makes The Loft unique.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke at the opening of The Loft, and said donations from people all around the world through the Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund have helped rebuild our social fabric. “Out of crisis and all of the losses we experienced as a city, something like this emerges as a powerful legacy, built on what was good in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes when we all came together to help our neighbours.”
What’s really unique about The Loft says Darryn Russell, Chair of Aviva (one of social service providers located there), is the way of working. “As organisations that support members of our community to achieve wellbeing, we made a commitment to offer more than our business-as-usual services. We are developing and adapting a range of key service processes, such as centralised booking of appointments and seamless consent to the multiple service agencies located in The Loft, to begin to make getting support easier. There is such enormous potential for us to do better for our community. If we can get this right, we believe we can not only really improve, but also even save lives.”
Since opening on 4 July, 28 people have walked into The Loft social services area to seek support from the agencies based there, or to be linked with more appropriate services elsewhere. Family Help Trust Chair Lesley Campbell said “Part of our vision is to enable support seeking to become easier for people, and we’re already finding that our availability within a retail centre is making our services more visible and more accessible. It’s particularly heartening to see young men come in and ask for support, as we know that for this group in particular, seeking out help can be intimidating.”
Linwood Medical Centre is also finding The Loft has brought increased awareness of the range of available services, and support for the concept of multiple services in one space. “People seeing their GP are keen to take up other services here. Simply by living more closely together, and understanding what we all bring to the table, we’re already enhancing the support we all give to people.” Having already each taken clients through to each other for support, the social and health service providers will continue to work together to develop the whole of person/whole of whanau approach which shared accommodation fosters.
Funders, including New Zealand Red Cross, the Mayor’s Earthquake Relief Fund, Ministry of Social Development, the Rata Foundation, Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, Lottery Grants Board, Sutherland Self Help Trust, and Working Together More Fund, provided the funds which enabled the social and community service agencies to construct their part of the premises.
The concept was one that was easy to support. “Following the earthquakes, The Loft social service partners committed to transforming their response model for families and communities” says Ms Louise Edwards, Chief Executive, Rātā Foundation. “Simply rebuilding ‘business as usual’ was not an option for them. In The Loft, they are creating a truly collaborative place which will deliver substantial community benefit for people living in our eastern suburbs.”
“So much hard work has gone into creating The Loft, but the real hard work” says Russell, “the important work – that of making a significant difference in people’s lives, now begins.”