Frequently asked questions
You may have some questions about our proposed partnership with Bromford and how this could affect you as a stakeholder or Merlin customer if we go ahead. To help answer these queries we have produced these FAQ’s which we hope you will find useful.
About the partnership
Why are you considering going into partnership?
We believe that by creating a partnership with Bromford we can do more and make a greater difference for current, future and aspiring customers. There are three important opportunities we believe this partnership would deliver if we go ahead:
- We would be able to increase the number of staff working with customers and the community;
- We could extend the services we currently offer so that they are focused at better meeting customer needs and aspirations; plus
- We would be able to increase the number of new affordable homes we build, delivering 14,000 new homes over the next decade.
In partnership we would have greater financial strength to deliver these three elements. We could invest: to build quality, affordable homes in thriving communities, to provide modern and responsive services and create homes and places where people want to live.
Who is Bromford?
Bromford is a business with a social purpose whose objective is to inspire customers to be their best. For more than 50 years Bromford has provided customers with new and affordable homes and provided a range of services aimed at reducing welfare-dependency and generating social value in employment, education, health and community safety. Bromford own or manages 30,000 homes. More details can be found at www.bromford.co.uk
We believe we’re a good match and having had many discussions in recent months we now know we have a lot in common. Our values are similar, both organisations have a common passion to offer exceptional customer experience and making a difference to the lives of our customers. We are both financially strong organisations and share a vision for making a difference.
Geographically we are also a good fit. Bromford has homes in and around Birmingham and down the M5 motorway to South Gloucestershire. The new organisation will have homes stretching from South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath up to Birmingham and surrounding areas.
What are the benefits of the partnership?
We strongly believe creating a partnership would bring real benefits to customers and other stakeholders in the immediate and longer term if it goes ahead:
- Customers would have their own Neighbourhood Coach who would work with customers and coach them to get what they want out of life. We know that if we help create the right conditions for each customer, as well as providing them with the right home, we can help customers achieve great things.
- Using technology to make it easier for customers to access and use services at a time and in a place that best suits them.
- By owning and managing more homes there would be greater choice and opportunity for customers to move home. In the next ten years we also plan to build 14,000 new homes.
We would also continue to deliver some of the other great services we provide, such as the Wellbeing College, volunteering programmes and our training and employment support.
If it goes ahead, when will this happen?
Subject to the outcome of this consultation, we are aiming for final approval from both our Boards towards the end of March 2018, with the partnership officially coming into being in July if it goes ahead. Work to truly integrate our services would continue beyond the formal partnership and is expected to take a number of years. Residents will be kept informed and consulted about further changes and there will be plenty of opportunity for customers to help shape the new organisation, most importantly in terms of how they are formally and informally involved and engaged with our work.
What changes would residents see if the proposal goes ahead?
Nothing would impact customers detrimentally – we would continue to provide high standards of customer service throughout. And in the short-term you would notice very little difference.
Towards the end of 2018 we propose extending the Bromford Neighbourhood Coaching model into our area of operation. As part of this you would see an increase in the number of staff working with customers and in the community in general.
An integration programme, which we expect to take a number of years, would follow the formal partnership if we go ahead. Any changes that are needed would be made as seamlessly as we can but with resident involvement. Our focus will be on maintaining and improving customer service.
How would the partnership work?
The proposed new partnership would involve Merlin becoming a subsidiary company in the Bromford Housing Group. Merlin would remain a separate housing association in the Group and would remain the landlord of its residents. In due course Merlin might change its name but for the time being we would continue to be known as Merlin, but within the Bromford Housing Group.
The Housing Group will be known as Bromford and in time we will stop using the Merlin name, however as Merlin would remain as a separate legal entity we would remain your landlord and your tenancy agreement / lease conditions would continue without any change whatsoever.
Who would pay the costs of creating this new organisation?
If we proceed with the proposal, the costs to create this partnership would be paid by both organisations. Rent and service charge would not be impacted by this partnership, any increase or decrease would change in line with Government policy.
Why do housing associations continue to get bigger? How would you keep a local focus?
The reason for getting larger is so that we can achieve more together – offer better services, invest more in existing homes and build more new homes.
We fundamentally believe in providing a local service to our residents. We know from talking to you just how important local knowledge and a local connection with the communities we serve are. We would ensure that a local focus is not lost and that levels of service remain high, this is why we think the Neighbourhood Coaching model would bring real benefits – you can find more information on Neighbourhood Coaching at www.bromford.co.uk .
Would my rent stay the same?
Rent and service charges would not change as a result of this partnership. Any increases or decreases in rent and service charges would be in line with your tenancy agreement or lease. Customers should continue to pay your rent and service charges just as they do now.
Would I need to move home?
Certainly not. Customers will not be asked to move home as a result of these plans.
If the proposal goes ahead would customers be given a new tenancy agreement or lease?
Tenancy and lease agreements would stay the same and you would have the same rights as you do now, including rights such as right to buy and succession arrangements.
Would the way people report a repair change?
There would be no change to existing arrangements in the short term and customers should continue to use the 0300 123 2222 telephone number. If we proposed making any changes to this we would let people know well in advance and seek the views of customers in doing so.
Any repairs would continue to be delivered by the same team of people who currently provide the service, we have no current plans to change this.
Would customers in sheltered or extra-care see any changes?
If customers are receiving care or support services at the moment, this would continue from either us or the dedicated care provider. The proposed partnership would not impact any existing contracts we have with the Local Authority; they would continue to operate as they do now.
Would shared ownership customers need to tell their mortgage company?
No, Merlin would continue to be their landlord and they would keep paying mortgage and rent in the same way.
Would the staff customers see now change?
Initially at least customers would continue to see the same people, whether that’s a neighbourhood housing officer, income officer, scheme officer or a member of Property Solutions carrying out repairs, grounds maintenance or cleaning services. In time, if we introduce the Neighbourhood Coaching way of working, some of the housing staff would change as they take on this new way of working.
The consultation process
When will the consultation process end? Will there be a response to residents?
The formal consultation will end on 16 February. All feedback will be collated for a report which will go to the Boards of both organisations so that they can make the final decision about whether to proceed with the partnership. A summary of the feedback will be posted here.
Why don’t residents get to vote on the partnership?
In common with many organisations, it is the Board that takes the decision on major strategy issues that affect how we are run.
The voice of our customers is crucial and we want to hear from as many of you as possible to help shape and inform our proposals. The Boards of both Merlin and Bromford will be very much taking your views into account as they make the decision to join as partners.
I am an involved resident. What does this mean for me?
Resident involvement and engagement will be critical to our success, not just during the partnership process, but beyond.
We have already started working with the Customer Assembly and other involved residents to develop our resident involvement approach for the new organisation assuming the partnership goes ahead. Crucially, both organisations are committed to a local presence and subject to the conclusion of those discussions it is expected that the work of our Customer Assembly will remain.
Keeping in touch
Would your 0300 123 2222 number and email addresses change?
Our phone numbers and email addresses would remain the same in the immediate future. In time this may change but if it did we would give people plenty of notice.
Would your website change?
At some point we would move to a combined website, but this wouldn’t happen straight away. Initially at least our website would remain as www.merlinhs.co.uk, where you can continue to find out more information on our partnership plans.