Thursday, 24 April 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.

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  • 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.

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