Monday, 20 October 2014

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.

Readers' comments (2)

  • The issue should not be focused on racism but on 'mis-management/mis-use of money'. If required, further investigation would/should reveal trips taken to New York and Hong Kong from 2004/5 years onwards. The concept of social enterprise has been on Novas' agenda for years but its 'business plan' never really been challenged. Average of 1.5 international trips a year is questionable and appropriateness of personnel who went should be queried. A number of whom have went on such trips has either been made redundant or resigned.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The racism accusation has been used on many occasions by to cast a slur on loyal and hardworking employees who actually have the best interests of the customers/service users as their priority. The nature of the relationships between the people who went on these trips should also be investigated, along with the exhorbitant sums paid to import statues, carpets, woodwork, sculptures of the founder etc etc. It's a charity and the rock star lifestyle and ambitions of those with power is not compatible with its purported ethos. Also, the lack of transparency regarding the awarding of contracts merits a closer look.
    "Novas" has lost it's way and has not only let down its employees/ex-employees, its let down the most important people, the ones who rely on the service they used to take pride in providing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register



  • Ethnicity and new social housing lets


    Over the last 18 months the proportion of new social lets to white people has risen while the proportion rented to black and ethnic minority families has dropped noticeably. Daniel Douglas investigates why

  • Know your social housing history


    Social housing has always been a force for good - and we forget that at our peril, says Tom Murtha

  • Red face

    6 December 2013

  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


    It’s been a tough year for tenants and landlords alike, so Inside Housing invited some in the north west to a Christmas party for some well-earned festive fun and games.

  • Homeless in Tanzania


    Homeless children in the Tanzanian city of Arusha face a daily battle to survive. Jess McCabe reports on the small steps some organisations are making to support them, and where possible, reunite them with their families


  • Room for procurement savings


    Scotland’s social housing sector is still dogged by the spectre of unnecessary procurement costs but it could save up to £42 million per year

  • Mind over matter


    A Merseyside landlord is training its staff to become mental health first aiders to help them support both colleagues and tenants, as Helen Clifton reports

  • Job interviews in housing: outside the box

    20 August 2014

    Some social landlords believe a traditional interview is not the way to find the best candidate for the job. Simon Brandon reports on how Bromford Group is using role-playing games to get to know prospective employees

  • Trade secrets


    Can learning from other sectors help social landlords do their jobs better? Heather Spurr visits retail icon John Lewis with a number of landlords to find out

  • Exchanging ideas during job swap


    When directors at a Staffordshire-based housing association swapped jobs for seven weeks they ended up learning new skills - and saving money. Helen Clifton reports

IH Subscription