Independent scrutiny board launched to hold Mears to account

Housing and social care provider Mears Group has launched an independent scrutiny board to “challenge the company” and question its PLC board and senior managers.

Independent scrutiny board launched to hold Mears to account

Terrie Alafat

The board, one part of a new resident engagement model, will have the right to roam across Mears, will sit equally alongside the PLC board and will have the power to publish independent public reports about Mears.

Alongside nine resident representatives, the board will be chaired by former Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) CEO, Terrie Alafat.

Ms Alafat was previously the director of housing at the Department of Communities and Local Government where she was responsible for national housing polices including affordable housing, homelessness and supported housing.

Resident board members were appointed independently following a recruitment process with TPAS.

Terrie Alafat said: “Building better relations between landlords, service providers and residents is key to ensuring we deliver service improvements. I am therefore delighted to see Mears lead the way from a private sector perspective and am pleased to take on this unique role reporting directly to the PLC Board.

“We have a great team of customers on the board and we will work hard to hold Mears to account. This is an approach I believe will deliver real benefits to all customers.”

Mears is set to replace Serco as the new Home Office contractor and asylum accommodation provider.

In a commitment agreed with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF), the firm has promised that it will not subject Glasgow-based asylum seekers who are waiting to receive a decision on their right to stay in the UK to lock-change evictions.

Mears Group director of marketing communications & customer success, Gary Jackson, said: “We decided that in the wake of the collapse of service providers and the lack of trust placed in the resident engagement practices of the housing sector we needed to lead from the front. I am delighted we have been able to attract someone of the calibre of Terrie Alafat to take on the role of the independent chair and the excellent calibre of Mears customers. I am confident they will be thorough in their scrutiny of Mears’ activities.

“We know that change is coming from government but rather than wait we wanted Mears to develop an industry-leading standard of resident engagement and scrutiny and so we’ve taken the most total approach – we’ve decided to open ourselves up to the most definitive and complete scrutiny by our own residents.”

Jacqui McKinlay, chief executive of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, said: “The CfPS has its background in local government scrutiny but in recent years there has been a growing demand from the private sector to put in more robust and independent scrutiny arrangements.

“There has been a shift in the private sector, particularly those responsible for the delivery of public services, to proactively respond to deep concerns about how they operate transparently and demonstrate they are open to scrutiny.”

Your Voice is structured as follows:

  • Mears Customer Scrutiny Board – An independently chaired panel of customer representatives working alongside the PLC Board and providing oversight, challenge and support to Mears. It will be supported and its independence assured by the Centre for Public Scrutiny.
  • Mears Customer Champions Forum – Made up of our own branch-based customer engagement (or equivalent) leads plus other key stakeholders such as client scrutiny board chairs, resident association leads, community activists. This forum will create a link between the scrutiny board and our local involvement groups and scrutiny structures.
  • Mears Online Customer Network -  A virtual network of residents from around the country, who opt into providing feedback on our services - provide insight into what’s important and what’s not - offer opinion and suggestions - validate and endorse our thinking/new initiatives.

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