Places of Welcome: FAQs

1 - What are Places of Welcome?

Places of Welcome are run by local community groups who want everyone in their neighbourhoods to have a safe place to go for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation, to belong, connect and contribute.

With over 700 across the UK each Place of Welcome is unique but all provide a place for people to connect with one another, find belonging and offer gifts and skills, getting involved in things that interest them.

Places of Welcome take place in a variety of different venues including churches, community centres, libraries, mosques, temples, gurdwaras and even a hospital, as well as other community buildings across the UK.

They are safe places that allow everyone to connect, belong and contribute.

2.a - What are the key things you need to consider when setting up a Place of Welcome?

  • Who are you expecting to use your Place of Welcome?
    Look at your community and the people who may access the facility the most - are they parents of young children, older people, those with housing needs, those living with mental health conditions?
  • Where will your Place of Welcome be held?
  • Find a suitable venue that is accessible and fit for purpose.
  • When will your Place of Welcome be held?
  • Choose the best available day and time (Places of Welcome open for approx. 2 hours, once a week, every week, on the same day and time each week).
  • What will your Place of Welcome look like when it has been running for a few months? (your vision, your hopes and your dreams)
  • Who will co ordinate the project and who are your volunteers?
  • Each venue has a named coordinator as well as a group of willing volunteers.
  • How will you let people know about it?
  • Where will you put leaflets or posters, who can you tell?

2.b - How can I prepare to open it?

Meet with your team and begin by setting out the Place of Welcome vision and aims which need to reflect those of the UK Places of Welcome initiative. Is there an Area Coordinator who can help you with this process? The national team will advise you of this once you have first made contact.

Set a realistic time frame to develop the Place of Welcome and aim for an opening date / event.

Involve all your team in the preparation plans, valuing all contributions and making the most of their skills and talents. Aim to have a team that works well together, who can create a shared vision and an amazing Place of Welcome. Establish the policies and procedures so that you are prepared for the grand opening (your Area Coordinator may help you do this).

3 - What should we do about fire safety?

Fire safety and evacuation procedures need to be addressed before you open. When using an established community building such as a community hall or place of worship, evacuation procedures are usually already in place, therefore you need to discuss these with the property manager and study evacuation procedure plans including the position and signage of fire exits, assembly points and firefighting equipment.

Places of Welcome Coordinators then need to pass on this information to all volunteers. It is good practice to talk through and walk through evacuation procedures with your volunteers and look at how to use fire extinguishers, fire blankets etc. Check that the fire extinguishers are correct for the building and it’s activities – see more information at <a href="

" class="redactor-autoparser-object"><a href="

" class="redactor-autoparser-object">

3.a - What should we check?

  • How to raise the alarm in case of fire
  • How to evacuate safely including switching off kitchen appliances and closing doors
  • Where to assemble once outside
  • How to check all are safe and the building is empty (check toilets)
  • All volunteers know where the fire exits are
  • The importance of evacuating quietly and sensibly
  • Not to waste time collecting belongings
  • Who will contact the emergency services 999
  • That volunteers know that no one is to re-enter the building until the all clear is given

Following this a simple safety check before each session should be sufficient to keep yourself, volunteers and visitors safe in an emergency situation. Check that exits are not obstructed, flammable materials are not near any naked flames, that there is access to a phone to call 999 and there is always someone on duty who knows the fire evacuation procedures and assembly points.

If the venue does not have fire evacuation procedures and / or firefighting equipment that has been checked annually, contact the venue manager immediately as it is their legal responsibility.

4 - What health and safety measures should we take?

When setting up a Place of Welcome, it is advisable to have a risk assessment of possible dangers. Taking a sensible and proportionate approach is the key to making sure things go smoothly and safely and avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy.

You may find that a risk assessment has already been carried out and is available for you, so ask the property manager first and ask to see a copy so it can be shared with your team. Check and amend it as necessary, as there be other risks that are risks primarily associated with your POW and not the building generally.

4.a - What should I do if there is not a risk assessment in place?

If there is not a risk assessment then a simple risk assessment can be done using the government tool found on

Look for the ‘Health and safety checklist for village and community halls on:

Once you have set up the Place of Welcome, we have risk assessment examples to help you.

Some things to think about could be

Trailing wires- to minimise risk of tripping- tape them down with ideally coloured tape (tape that stands out)

Uncovered plug sockets- to minimise the risk of children harming themselves by putting their fingers in- buy plug sockets covers Kettles: to minimise children or vulnerable adults scalding themselves- perhaps keep kitchen facilities 12+ only or authorised people only.

4.b - How often should I review the risk assessment?

It is good practice to review the risk assessment check list once a year or following completion of alterations and building works. It is then advisable to elect a person or persons to carry out a simple visual safety check before each session to ensure the environment remains safe for volunteers and visitors.

5 - Do we need a first aider?

No, but it’s useful to think about what to do in the event of an accident. Each venue should have a fully stocked first aid box that is easily accessible, and all volunteers need to know where it is kept. Although you will not legally require a trained first aider at each session it might be helpful to carry out a simple basic first aid briefing with volunteers, and see if there are any opportunities for additional training.

Perhaps someone could check the contents of the first aid box and see if there is an accident reporting system in place, in your venue.

Some POWs assign someone for each session who is responsible for the safety within the venue. The following website offers good advice: and includes posters and helpful guidance.

6 - Do we need public liability insurance?

While Public Liability insurance is not a legal requirement, all community groups that deal with members of the public and are running events should consider taking out public liability insurance. It is a relatively inexpensive cover and protects against allegations of injury caused to a third party. This could be, for example, if someone was to trip over a loose wire at an event, or a hot cup of coffee was knocked over and scalded a visitor. Public liability insurance also covers against damage caused to third party property.

If your Place of Welcome is in a church hall, library, or community centre the appropriate insurance may already be in place and be automatically applied when you hire or use the venue, but you need to ask and to check the relevant documentation. If not, there are many Insurance brokers who specialise in insuring voluntary events. Policies require annual renewal and paperwork should be kept in a secure and accessible location.

7 - How important is accessibility?

Places of Welcome aim to make their venues accessible to everyone as part of the 5P’s and this includes, where possible, people with all forms of disability, including hearing and visual impairment, reduced mobility, manual dexterity, learning disability and memory loss.

We should try to make reasonable adjustments and take the steps required to change practice, policy, or procedure to enable people with disabilities to attend and take part in the Place of Welcome.

It is good if you can make reasonable adjustments for people who have additional mobility needs. If your building has steps at the entrance to the building, accessibility could be increased by getting a ramp to put over the stairs. If this is not realistic or possible, please make this clear on your publicity on your flyers. This helps to minimise disappointment of people with mobility needs coming to your Place of Welcome and then not being able to access it.

Please consider access to the venue and the toilets, and perhaps large-print information sheets, easy to handle cups and cutlery. Where could people with buggies leave them? Where could people park who need to be close?

Some people may require just a little more individual attention than others and one of our aims as a Place of Welcome is to ensure all feel welcome, valued and able to participate. Physical disabilities are easy to spot but some people have hidden disabilities including learning difficulties or mental health conditions which may result in communication problems and therefore instructions and processing may take a little longer. Be patient, slow down, use age-appropriate but clear language. It may be appropriate to use graphic and symbol support in the form of labelling and signage. And, of course we mustn’t forget a simple helping hand, or offer an arm to steady or guide.

Some venues such as libraries and community centres have an access statement and make it visible so that visitors know what to expect. (An Access Statement provides information on the suitability of a building for people with a wide range of disabilities).

You may feel it necessary to further develop these shared values with your team of volunteers through information sharing, discussions and training opportunities.

8 - Do we need to provide food, and do we need a license?

One of the 5P’s for Places of Welcome is to have free refreshments e.g. a drink and a biscuit. Some extend their offer to cakes, toast and even soup.

If you handle, prepare, store and serve food occasionally, and on a small scale, you do not need to register.

You do not need a food hygiene certificate to make or to sell food for charity events, however you do need to make sure that you handle food safely.

8.a - How do we handle food safely?

Follow the 4Cs of food hygiene – cleaning, chilling, cooking and avoiding cross contamination. This can be found on the following web site and will help you to prepare, make and store food safely.

Here are some general practical tips if you are providing food for your Place of Welcome which is more than tea/coffee and biscuits:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water, using hand sanitisers particularly if hand washing facilities are not readily available
  • always wash fresh fruit and vegetables
  • keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart
  • do not use food past its use-by date
  • make sure food is bought from reputable suppliers
  • always read any cooking instructions and make sure food is properly cooked before you serve it
  • ensure food preparation areas are well maintained and fit for purpose
  • ensure that food preparation areas are suitably cleaned and sanitised after use and wash any equipment you are using in hot soapy water
  • keep food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible and cover where necessary
  • dispose of packaging materials and food waste properly
  • have a dedicated area for storing cleaning chemicals away from the foodstuffs

When you serve home-made cakes at community events there are a few guidelines to follow:

  • a recipe is used from a reputable source
  • the people who make the cakes/biscuits must follow good food hygiene advice
  • the cakes are stored and transported safely
  • be particularly careful when cakes contain fresh cream
  • label all the ingredients

8.b - Is it important to label foods for allergens?

If you label ingredients, you do not need to list all allergens. Listing ingredients is useful because there may be foods some people cannot eat for religious, health or cultural reasons, and there may be ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

However, if allergens are a real concern, you can help by :

  • providing accurate allergen information
  • handling and managing food allergens adequately in the kitchen

We have an example of a food allergen tick off sheet that could be adapted to suit any Place of Welcome, in our drop box folder, which any POW can access. This can be cut to size, laminated and displayed.

8.c - Can we have a donation box?

The basic provision in a Place of Welcome is free – this is tea, coffee and a biscuit. Some Places of Welcome have a donations box, which is fine but it should be made clear that this is optional and that people are more than

Pow map web

Where are the Places of Welcome?

Check the map to find a venue locally or nationally

2 - How do I set up one?

The main criteria for becoming a Place of Welcome is a commitment to our 5 values:

Place - An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week

People - Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers

Presence - A place where people actively listen to one another

Provision - Offering free refreshments (at least a cup of tea and a biscuit) and basic local information

Participation - Every person will bring talents, experiences and skills that they may be willing to share locally

Contact or complete the contact form at https://www.placesofwelcome.or...

There may be a local Area Coordinators in your area we can put you in touch with for help and advice.

Places of Welcome 5 Ps web 1