Saturday, 13 February 2016

Novas accuses critics of racism after cultural diversity trips are queried

Foreign trips for staff of troubled provider

Staff from the troubled Novas Scarman housing association took three trips to Malaysia in the past two years to buy goods for its arts centre.

The organisation, which is currently facing a Housing Corporation statutory inquiry into aspects of its financial management, used the trips to forge cultural links and ship back goods, including thousands of pounds worth of decorative woodwork.

The goods were for use in the charity’s social enterprise centre, the Contemporary Urban Centre, in Liverpool.

The organisation mounted a vigorous defence of the trips, after Inside Housing was contacted by a concerned source.

A Novas Scarman spokesperson said it was shifting its business away from Supporting People hostels to social enterprise, arts and inclusion work. She said that Novas had cancelled a separate trip to Trinidad and Tobago because of concerns about how it would be perceived.

She added that some of its black staff had funded trips to Caribbean countries ‘from their own monies, specifically because of the racist interpretation that some people may have on the value of this work’.

Novas said it financed an average of 1.5 international trips a year with ‘reasonable’ costs for ‘professional development and organisational learning’.

‘Making an impact internationally, particularly around the issues of homelessness, social enterprise models, diaspora and cultural diversity, is part of our approved objectives,’ a spokesperson said.

‘We are sorry one or two of our staff do not see the benefit of this work or support cultural diversity, or how hard their - often black - colleagues and customers have worked to make these initiatives successful,’ the spokesperson added.

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