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 400 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 - 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.

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="

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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 welcome to attend regardless of whether they contribute financially.

Some Places of Welcome find it helpful having a donations box as it is a way people can say thank you and give back. This can be another way that people can ‘Participate’ (one of the 5 values).

A box with a slot is perhaps preferable to an open bowl to create confidentiality of giving and decrease temptation of others to take the money.

9 - Is safeguarding important?

Places of Welcome are open to all and this will include vulnerable people, both children and adults, and therefore we must regard with utmost seriousness the challenge of preventing any form of abuse from happening and to respond appropriately if, where and when it does. Because we are Places of Welcome, visitors or volunteers may speak to helpers and disclose issues of concern regarding their safety or the safety of others and we have a responsibility to report such information; therefore it is important that all volunteers are aware of safeguarding principals and processes.

It is good practice for coordinators to facilitate the opportunity for volunteers to take part in Safeguarding Awareness training and this can include different levels of training - from Basic Awareness and Foundation training (which would be ideal for volunteers and coordinators), to Leadership and Senior Staff training which is also available and is required for people in a Leadership role who have safeguarding leadership responsibilities/ are leading activities involving children and/or vulnerable adults. Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that people are kept safe and are supported well.

Safeguarding is such a sensitive issue that it can be a worry when volunteering.

If you are in a place of worship or community building there may be a designated safeguarding person there to whom reports should be made. There are people within every Local Authority to whom safeguarding concerns should also be reported.

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility. If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, young person or adult at risk, you must report it. It’s not for you to investigate or decide whether any abuse has taken place. Abuse can be perpetrated or caused by anyone at any time.

If you have concerns:

Do: Ensure the immediate health and safety of the person – dial 999 in an emergency Listen and reassure. Take all concerns seriously. Seek advice. Only tell those who need to know.

If you have concerns: Do not: Promise confidentiality. Do Not: Ignore information or concerns regardless of who the person being spoken about is. Do not: Place yourself at risk of abuse or harm.

Remember - The welfare of the child, young person and vulnerable adult is at all times paramount and takes precedence over all other considerations.

Useful numbers:

ChildLine 08001111

NSPCC Helpline 0808 808 5000 and website

Elder Abuse Helpline - 0808 808 8141

Further information:

Some Local Authorities have safeguarding hubs alternatively look at your council web site.

Voluntary sector organisations and faith groups may run courses and/or be able to signpost you to courses happening locally.

Consider buddying up with other Places of Welcome to look at Safeguarding and possible joint training sessions.

9.a - Should all my volunteers be DBS checked?

No. Current Government advice is that volunteers for roles like at a Place of Welcome don’t need to be DBS checked -

Each organization has its own policies for the recruitment of their volunteers.

10 - How will people know we are here?

When setting up your Place of Welcome you will need to look at ways to tell people. We have some lovely, eye-catching posters and banners you can have to promote and signpost your Place of Welcome. Consider holding an opening event and publicise it in and around your local area. Inform your local surgeries and health providers that you can offer a place to go for their patients where they will be welcomed and listened to. Place posters and flyers in all the local community venues including schools, age care centres and libraries. Don’t forget the local foodbank, funeral directors and Citizens advice office. You could also send a press release to local media. Finally, one of the most effective ways to fill your POW is by word of mouth so get telling everyone you meet and be ready to welcome them at the door when they arrive!

11 - We are a religious group, is that a problem?


However, Places of Welcome must be places that welcome everyone including people from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds as we believe that bringing people together, respecting their beliefs and cultures helps to change attitudes for the better and helps to build meaningful relationships within our communities. Places of Welcome must not carry with them the necessity to belong to a particular faith group or ethnic group, and should therefore not be seen to push selective beliefs upon visitors, making them feel uncomfortable. Remember all are welcome and all are valued!

11.a - Can our Place of Welcome be in a place of worship before/after a service?

Yes, so long as people attending the Place of Welcome can do so freely and they do not feel pressured or expected to take part in the service. If your Place of Welcome is happening in the same space where your service takes place, it would be advisable to leave some time before the service or afterwards, so that people feel comfortable leaving the Place of Welcome before the service begins/ coming in afterwards.

12 - Is Places of Welcome just for faith groups?

No. Any organization can be a Place of welcome if they meet all the 5 values. We have many libraries, community centres and other non-religious groups in the network.

13 - My Place of Welcome is very different from another I have visited, why is that?

Places of Welcome are not a café for people to come to once a week, and drop in, where they just get a free drink and a cake or biscuit. Rather we aim to create places where people feel accepted and valued, where they feel a part of what is going on and where their lives can be enhanced and even transformed. To do this we need to develop an understanding of the community in which the POW is placed, it’s strengths and its challenges and to then get to know each person who visits, their strengths and the challenges that they are facing. We need to create a Place of Welcome that suits both the place and the people.

Having visited many Places of Welcome we discover that all are different because every community is different. Some are in tiny villages whilst others are on housing estates and others are in the centre of the city. They provide different activities and opportunities. Some are big, some are small.

14 - We already run a weekly free coffee morning. Can an existing initiative become a Place of Welcome and still retain its name and identity?

Yes. Absolutely. To become a Place of Welcome you simply need to ensure you follow the 5 P’s. Joining the Places of Welcome movement, you’ll benefit from being a part of a network of welcome and hospitality across England. People moving into the area may quickly recognise the Places of Welcome name and know they will certainly receive that special welcome they have already experienced elsewhere. Some POW’s have found it particularly helpful when talking to services like GP’s, as the medical staff can see that this ‘coffee morning’ is part of national network and it therefore helps to build credibility.

You don’t have to change your name to join the network but you can use any of the branding.

15 - Can our Place of Welcome take place once a month or fortnightly?

No. The Places of Welcome values were created by a a collection of groups providing welcome and hospitality across Birmingham. Working together, they created the 5 P values.

One of these – Place - is to meet weekly at the same place and same time. Some people take a long time to build up the confidence to attend a Place of Welcome and can easily be put off if it is not a regular, frequent event. If the Place of Welcome is closed the week they come or they are unsure when you open because you are once a month then they might never come. The vision of the network is that Place of Welcome become communities and it is much easier to create community with a weekly event.

16 - Can we be women only or veterans only or asylum seekers only or young people only?

No. Our ‘People’ is that Places of Welcome need to be open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation. Your publicity and how you talk about your Place of Welcome needs to highlight that you are welcoming to all. However, your Place of Welcome may be primarily attended by one group; this is fine but you will need to think about how you would be welcoming to someone who attends who isn’t from the same group and make every effort for them to feel welcome too.

17 - What extra activities could we run?

Places of Welcome attendees do a variety of activities. The common factor is that these are chosen and suggested by the members of that group. Common ones are discussions, playing cards and dominos, and teaching skills and hobbies such as knitting. The main aim is always to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, relaxed, and fun.

But just being present to people is vital. We hear many stories that tell us POW’s are making a difference; for example one lady in a village setting was finding life tough after losing her husband to cancer. She was at her wits end and depression had set in, but after being invited to the local Place of Welcome she then found the confidence to participate as a volunteer and has found such comfort and a new purpose in her life.

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Where are the Places of Welcome?

Check the map to find a venue locally or nationally