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Community Whanau hears more about Community Link

August 5th, 2010
by David Armstrong

The monthly Community Whanau meeting yesterday heard more about the Community Link project, which will see the current Work and Income Service Centre building in High Street morph into a multi-agency community hub to provide a wide range of more integrated services.

Nelson-based Ministry of Social Development (MSD) representative Tim Leyland backgrounded the Community Link innovation, and called on community groups and individuals to provide expressions of interest in the concept and in particular to take part in an advisory group to be formed shortly.

There are currently 23 Community Link offices in New Zealand, the latest one added being at Blenheim last week. Motueka is next cab off the rank, and MSD intends the implementation to be complete across the country within two years. Motueka Online was first to report the change locally (read about it here).

In summary, Motueka Community Link will be a place where resources are shared, agencies cooperate and coordinate, and working together is flexible and adaptable. It will provide for the community and partner agencies meeting and interview rooms, work desks with computers and printers, and broadband internet and phones - all free of charge.

Tim emphasised that the actual design, focus and usage of each Community Link centre depends very much on local needs. "Clients are the centre, and communities are encouraged to own it," he said. The facilities available depend on the current relative levels of presence and service of government agencies and non-government (community) organisations within each town.

He said Motueka's WINZ building, being quite new, is already well set up to use its space efficiently, with at least three desk working areas free for use. He expected usage to develop gradually as community needs and ideas become apparent during the changeover period.

"The change will see the WINZ label go, and people will in time see the building as a centre for information and contacts," Tim said. "They won't be going to the WINZ office but rather to a place where all the community activities and services happen."

Community Link aims to build on the strong relationships and networks that already exist within Motueka, and MSD is now asking for expressions of interest from organisations interested in participating in Community Link, whether in its establishment and governance or as on- or off-site partners. For more information, call Gavin Cook at Work and Income Motueka or email (Added later: a document has been prepared to allow people and groups to register their Expression of Interest - Download it here.)

Other news at whanau meeting

Matt Beech, of the St Thomas Anglican Parish, has offered his services in advocacy support, complementing work also offered by a sub-group of the Whanau group. Matt told the group that he knows very well both sides of the Work and Income counter, having himself been forced onto the unemployment benefit for four years and then being employed as a WINZ case manager.

Now retiring, he is freely offering his services to anyone needing help and advice when dealing with Work and Income, and has written some documentation on how to be a better advocate.

Two representatives from Volunteer Nelson spoke of two workshops they are offering in September that will help community groups to plan projects more effectivelyh and to handle insurance for their volunteer helpers.

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