Joining forces

The two organisations that merged to form Framework were of similar size and status.

Both were registered charities and companies limited by guarantee, though, unusually for an organisation of its scale, Macedon became a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) in 1999 – giving access to vital government funding for capital development and providing status and official recognition.

Macedon

Macedon began life as the Macedon Christian Coffee Bar in 1973 at the Albion Congregational Church in Sneinton – which later became the Albion Nightshelter. Under the dynamic leadership of homelessness campaigner Christine Russell the charity developed a high profile in Nottingham and enjoyed widespread public support particularly among churches.

By the late 1990s Macedon had become the largest provider of services for homeless people in Nottingham with particular expertise in providing support and accommodation for people with drug problems. It had also developed specialist accommodation for women – including women fleeing domestic violence and teenage parents.

NHHA

Nottingham Help the Homeless Association (NHHA), incorporated in 1970, was set up in response to the death of homeless people on Nottingham’s streets the previous winter. Encouraged by the City Council to address street homelessness, NHHA developed the Canal Street Nightshelter. It also developed innovative approaches to working with people with alcohol problems – as at the Handel Street Day Centre (opened in 1991 and closed in the cuts of 2011) which was unique at the time in allowing the consumption of alcohol on the premises.

A report commissioned by the two organisations from Sitra to explore the feasibility of merger reported that at 31 March 1999 Macedon employed the equivalent of 69 full time staff, had an annual turnover in the preceding year of £1,784,000 and net assets of £371,000. At the same date NHHA employed the equivalent of 66 full time staff; had an annual turnover of £1,272,000 and net assets of £439,000.

The case for merger

A Business Plan, published by Macedon in July 2000 to guide the merger process, records that “the idea of a merger… first arose when senior executives of the two organisations were discussing how to cooperate most effectively in terms of service delivery in a funding environment where competition was being forced on us”.

In January 1999 both Macedon’s Management Committee and NHHA’s Council of Management passed resolutions to explore the possibility of merging and consultations began with staff and stakeholders including Nottingham City Council and the Housing Corporation.

Bringing the leadership of the two organisations together was delicately negotiated: there was goodwill towards the principle of merger but also a desire to defend the interests of each organisation. The first meeting of Elizabeth Hutchinson, Chair of Macedon, and Cllr The Hon. Joan Taylor, Chair of NHHA, was facilitated and thereafter they jointly chaired frequent meetings of senior staff on neutral ground at County Hall.

Sitra’s report, presented to a joint meeting of management committees in December 1999, concluded that they were “reasonably confident that the medium and long term benefits of merger should far outweigh the short term costs and drawbacks” and that, subject to full consultation with all interested parties, the committees should “take an ‘in principle’ decision to merge Macedon and NHHA as soon as possible as there was a robust business case to do so”.

Achieving the merger

At Macedon’s Annual Consultation Day in mid-January 2000 the majority of staff voted in favour of merger. Later in the month both committees took ‘in principle’ decisions to merge in April 2001 and to set up a Reference Group “to work on governance, structure, name, committee offices senior staff, harmonisation of staff conditions, etc”.

Detailed work continued to satisfy the Housing Corporation and the Charity Commissioners and a Due Diligence Review was undertaken on NHHA on behalf of Macedon as an RSL which reported that the merger plans were in the interests of both organisations.

The issue of who should be lead the merged organisation was resolved by Christine Russell’s proposal to be appointed Chief Executive to see through the merger process until her retirement at which point Andrew Redfern, as Deputy Chief Executive, would take over.

Who should chair the new organisation was graciously resolved when Elizabeth Hutchinson received a call out of the blue from Joan Taylor: “I’ve decided Elizabeth. I’ll be your Vice-Chair.”

Satisfying the requirements of the Housing Corporation delayed the merger by three months until 1 July 2001. On merger the new organisation was known as Macedon & NHHA until, after intense and wide-ranging consultation, the name Framework was proposed, agreed and adopted. Framework service director Dave Smith, who proposed the name, is still awaiting his £50 prize.

Establishing the identity of the new organisation was only completed in 2005 when people in and outside the organisation were asked about their perceptions of Framework – an exercise which led to the strapline “opening doors to homeless and vulnerable people”.

While the merger process was gathering pace during 1999 and 2000 the reality of collaboration was tested practically with a joint tender to deliver STAR (Supported Tenancies And Resettlement) – an accommodation service for people with enduring mental health problems commissioned by Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire Health Authority and Nottinghamshire County Council Social Services.

Competing against agencies with considerably more experience in delivering services of this type, the joint proposal offered a person-centred and inclusive approach with an emphasis on recovery and move-on. The tender’s success was an endorsement by commissioners of both the partnership and the proposed service model. The STAR service, based at Hughendon Lodge in Mapperley, continues under Framework’s management in 2011.

Combining skills and resources

The two organisations shared similar values and had complementary areas of expertise. Macedon had an extensive head office infrastructure while NHHA had virtually none: the combined management team and central resources were of appropriate size to run the combined operation.

Macedon’s RSL status provided the new organisation with potential funding to expand its accommodation portfolio and Macedon’s links with churches provided the base for building strong community support.