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Key community service providers collaborate in Marlborough

Marlborough social services clients are set to receive an even better service with the collaboration of two key social services agencies.

For the past 18 months, Barnardos Blenheim has been contracted by Presbyterian Support to manage two of their Family Works team members. 

Next month, this arrangement will evolve even further with one Family Works staff member co-locating permanently to Barnardos’ Blenheim offices. Another will follow suit later in the year.

Presbyterian Support Regional Manager Chris Walsh says ‘contracting’ out management was logical: “The distance between Nelson and Marlborough meant difficulties in effectively supporting our social workers.”

The decision fits with Government’s new approach to social services that focuses on delivering social services in smarter, more efficient ways.   

According to Barnardos Area Manager Mike Henderson it’s the way of the future: “I’ve always had a strong belief in inter-agency collaboration. It [housing Family Works in Blenheim] makes sense, and enhances Barnardos and Family Works services as a one-stop shop for clients.”

Chris says the idea to collaborate initially evolved after Presbyterian Support advertised to fill a new team leader position. “All the applicants – understandably – came from community organisations within the Blenheim area. So we would’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul. That’s not good for the people we work with.

“If you really believe the customer comes first, you have to swallow a bit of pride and find a way of working better together,” he says.

Discussions over collaboration began around two years ago. “It makes a lot of sense for a community the size of Blenheim,” says Mike. “It gives us economies of scale, increases Family Works profile in Blenheim, and enhances communication and collegial support between Barnardos and Presbyterian Support staff.”

Economies of scale might also allow Barnardos and Family Works to co-locate into much needed larger premises, as facilities for group work at Barnardos are restrictive.

The two organisations are also currently exploring rebranding their services to reflect their new seamless service approach.

Both agree it’s not just about bricks and mortar – the real winners are the clients. Because they can provide such a basket of services, it is rare to refer clients out, except for significant mental health issues, agree Mike and Chris.

This allows staff to establish long-term relationships with clients giving them the opportunity to address other underlying issues that might exist.

“Change takes time. It’s about establishing trust. By collaborating, we can meet many client needs within the one organisation.” The result, says Mike, is a very low re-referral rate.

That collaboration is being extended into other communities. The two agencies are working together to base a Presbyterian Support social worker at a Picton school.

Two schools are involved in that project, establishing a community hub. One will provide a building and the other administrative support. Barnardos will provide management. Chris hopes to have the venture running by September.