As our Bromford partnership begins we've spoken to one of our customers about their past experiences with us and their hopes for the future.
Former nurse, council worker and district councillor Carol Moore has been living in her home in the village of Westerleigh since 1993.
She moved in with her three children after the break-up of her marriage and says she has seen big improvements to the services she’s received after Merlin took over the housing stock from South Gloucestershire Council in 2007. After retiring from her role at Bristol City Council four years ago, Carol became an involved customer late last year after being asked to join the Customer Assembly.
“I accepted the house before seeing it because it would allow my children to continue going to their same schools. When I did come to see it, it was awful; it hadn’t been decorated for years as the old woman who lived there was spending lots of time away living with her daughter. And there was absolutely nothing here, not even a lightbulb. The council said they couldn’t redecorate in time and so they gave me a few tins of paint. There was no heating upstairs and that actually didn’t change until Merlin took over and came round to fit a new kitchen and bathroom and I told them and they came and installed some new heating. Despite what it was like when I moved in, I have loved the house from the start, because it was all mine and we felt safe and the village was so kind and welcoming.”
Carol really took to village life and has been heavily involved with the village hall, and the local church over the years and enjoys meeting up with friends for aquafit classes and trips to the cinema. On top of this she is also currently president of the local Women’s Institute. Despite this very active lifestyle she admits that being asked to join the Customer Assembly was a boost to her morale that her views and opinions were still valued. And having worked in housing at Bristol City Council and been a tenant of Northavon District Council and South Gloucestershire Council before the housing stock was transferred to Merlin in 2007, Carol has plenty of experience to share about how Merlin has performed over the past 11 years.
“I have had a great experience with Merlin as my landlord. I love my house and Merlin has looked after me very well. The house has been re-roofed, it’s had a new heating, kitchen and bathroom and they have re-done the insulation. A lot of the pointing had gone which was causing damp problems and that’s been done and I love how beautiful the house looks when I walk down the path each day. There are always little exasperations with things but overall I feel very happy and I think Merlin has done very well.”
After having a positive relationship with Merlin, Carol confesses she did have concerns about how customers would be affected when the news of the partnership was announced.
“I think my main worry about the partnership was that all of a sudden this reasonably well working housing association is going to treble in size and my first thought was that are we going to be absorbed into them. But then some of the ideas from Bromford seem quite good, especially the neighbourhood coaches.
“I know from when I worked for Bristol City Council that housing officers had such big areas to cover that they couldn’t possibly meet all the tenants and they only really knew the ones that were causing trouble or getting behind on their rent. So it looks like neighbourhood coaches have more time for people in their area and I think that’s a really good idea. I think if neighbourhood coaches are making irregular, regular visits, they will be able to see if people are struggling in an area of their life earlier and offer support before it becomes a really big problem. It’s this kind of thing that would be good; if you can sort out a repair issue before it becomes too big then it’s good for everyone.
“There are also a few other concerns, like if we have processes that work really well in Merlin, are they going to stay or are they going to be lost. I hope we’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I know we have some really good people and good practices and I really don’t want to see them go. It would be nice if it is a two-way thing.
“And I hope that as tenants we can report when we think things are not working out and there’s somewhere to go, with a group keeping an overview on whether targets are being met.
“But mostly I am hoping that if we are taking the best of Merlin’s and Bromford’s ways of working we will come up with something that’s even better for everyone; that allows customers to communicate to them in the way that customers want and we provide a good life for residents in a reasonable home and that areas and estates are looked after so that any issues are resolved quickly.”