Findings of The Loft Evaluation - "the word collaboration doesn't even capture it"

2nd of May, 2019

The Loft In mid-2018, after two initial years of operation, The Loft (which Aviva, with partner agencies, established in mid-2016) commissioned its first evaluation. The findings, presented in late December, have demonstrated that the aspirations of Loft partners in creating this new way of providing wellbeing support are being successfully met.

The Loft is a collaborative partnership of community, social and health services working to improve the wellbeing of all people in our community. The first evaluation of its effectiveness included interviews with internal and external stakeholders (including clients), as well as use of data collected from clients over the previous two years on their experience of The Loft.

Clients, staff and external stakeholders all commented that The Loft’s location is working very well at providing services in a place and space that is highly accessible in terms of mobility, personal safety and connection to transport links. Client feedback reinforced that The Loft is a safe and non-stigmatising space for individuals and families, and somewhere that is increasingly visible and embedded in the local community. One client described their experience in this way: “When you walk in, it’s like Oh My God, it’s like my second house. … They make you feel like a human. They don’t make you feel like a number”. This may explain why word-of-mouth inspired self-referral is the most common access path to Loft services. 

Many people using The Loft identify multiple, co-existing needs - most commonly mental health, family violence, financial issues, housing, care and protection of children, and alcohol or drug concerns - and feedback indicates that The Loft is successfully making access to multiple services for those with complex needs easier. The Loft offers a Social Emergency Response Service (SERS) which means that people are not required to diagnose their own needs and then seek out help from multiple sources; the SERS team does that for them, thus removing those barriers which are part of the traditional social service system. After identifying their primary need, The Loft can facilitate the development of a relationship with an appropriate agency, and even provide some practical support around food parcels, clothing or other items. In its first two years SERS has supported over 600 individuals and families, usually unconnected with other support agencies. Thirty percent identify as Maori 76% have dependent children; most are between 25-45 years and 70% live in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs. 

Because 40% of people entering The Loft identify family violence as a significant issue for them, the role of Te Ara Atea – Family Violence Wayfinder, was created. This person offers short-term support and make safe interventions until a specialist family violence agency can take over for longer-term support. The evaluation indicated that supports for people experiencing family violence were seen to reach children, young people, women, men and all people using violence and/or being subjected to violence. Practitioners of non-family violence related services based at The Loft said that their own understanding of and ability to recognise family violence had also grown.

Feedback from both clients and workers based at The Loft also suggested that services are indeed being delivered in a more coordinated and integrated fashion than has happened in standalone services, thanks to the Navigator service, as well as the ease of connection between practitioners and agencies.  This prompted one Loft client to say “The Loft is perfect. That’s all I can say. They should have The Loft in every city in the country.” 

One external stakeholder reflected that “(The Loft has) put out the challenge really, about this is how services can operate collectively without that whole sense of competition… And it’s the kind of stuff that we’ve talked about in the social sector for a long time.”

The Loft evaluation is available to view at wwwtheloftchristchurch.org.nz