House of Generations Schwaz: A one-stop shop for providing health and social services in Austria
- Increasing demand for municipal health and social services due to an ageing population with narrowing family structures.
- Growing frustration over fragmented local health and social services provision linked to suboptimal organization.
- Rising unmet health and social needs, particularly for vulnerable groups.
- The Municipality of Schwaz reorganized local health and social services around the purpose-built House of Generations.
- Co-location of services increased coordination and improved access for vulnerable groups.
- Shared living spaces, group activities and cooperative initiatives within the House of Generations generated a sense of community, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for vulnerable groups.
- Strong leadership helped forge effective partnerships with municipal and regional politicians through clearly communicating aims and objectives, contributing to the initiative’s successful development.
- Extensive involvement and linkages with the wider community generated a new hub for community-based health and social services.
Mirroring national trends throughout the early 2000s, the Municipality of Schwaz observed a narrowing of family structures within its ageing population. In response to changing demographics, demand for municipal health and social services increased, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, individuals with mental disabilities and lower socioeconomic families. However, fragmented organization of local health and social services, coupled with a lack of coordination between the various actors involved, hindered the system’s ability to respond to increasing demands.
In 2006, the mayor proposed a new local model for health and social services to better address the needs of vulnerable groups in Schwaz. Working in collaboration with local government agencies and nongovernmental organizations to realize the initiative, the resulting House of Generations opened in 2007 as a “one-stop shop” for health and social services. Dedicated office space within the House for health and social service providers has brought previously fragmented actors together through co-location for more coordinated service delivery. Additionally, private apartments within the House provide assisted-living arrangements for the elderly and affordable housing for young families. Communal areas within the House offer a chance for residents to interact and regular events – such as craft workshops, educational seminars and seasonal festivals – foster community spirit. Residents have also self-organized their own “helping hands” service to support each other in day-to-day life, whereby they exchange services depending on individual strengths and capacities; for example, an older resident may help a working parent with childminding in exchange for meals. Several additional facilities are available at the House, including a restaurant and a village shop which hires and trains people with mental disabilities as a means to support their independence and develop their skills within a protected environment. A municipal afterschool day-care centre and senior centre have also been built onsite, providing easy access to these services for residents and forging links between the House and the wider community. At present, the House of Generations continues to grow its community and offer social services in Schwaz.
The open-mindedness of the mayor to take a new approach in the delivery of health and social services in Schwaz was a key driver of the initiative. Together with the nongovernmental organization Caritas Tyrol, the municipal government defined the concept for the House of Generations and took action to realize its development. Management of the House of Generations is overseen by a steering committee led by the Municipality of Schwaz, with strong support from the mayor and the Regional Government of Tyrol. Day-to-day running of the House is the responsibility of the House manager who acts as a mediator between different interest groups, helps develop a sense of community within the House and facilitates responsive services provision for House residents. Importantly, House residents are also key actors in the initiative as the House relies heavily on their participation and involvement to function to its full potential.
The House of Generations has become a vital meeting point and social interaction space for the whole municipality. While no official evaluation has been conducted, residents report high satisfaction with House services and a high quality of life.
This case was prepared as part of a larger effort by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and published (2016) in the document, "Lessons from transforming health services delivery: Compendium of initiatives in the WHO European Region".
© Copyright World Health Organization (WHO), 2016
The methodology used for the development of this case is slightly different from the templates used on the IntegratedCare4People web platform, in particular in the analysis of enabling factors and barriers to change.
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House of Generations Schwaz