Risk Management : Temporary accommodation for refugees

25 March 2022

Risk management considerations for organisations providing temporary accommodation for refugees.

We understand that individuals and organisations across the UK may be seeking to play a part in helping people affected by the crisis in Ukraine or refugees from other countries, however commercial premises are not designed for full-time accommodation. Opening them up for such use may therefore present logistical and planning issues and property owners/occupiers may need to liaise with the local authority over a proposed change in use.
Where property owners/occupiers of commercial premises are considering housing refugees on a short term basis they must ensure they satisfy the relevant safety and welfare legislation associated with the provision of such accommodation. In addition, existing Health & Safety policy, where required, and procedures for the premises will need to be reviewed to reflect the change in use, including consideration of:
  • Fire safety arrangements. Fire risk assessments will need to be reviewed; consider the adequacy of the emergency exits for the number of people living in the premises. Is there an automatic fire alarm system to the building? If not how will you ensure any fire is quickly detected and occupants alerted? Where overnight accommodation is provided you will need to consider the provision of an automatic fire alarm system providing coverage of these areas, designed and installed to the current British Standard. The local fire officer may be able to offer further assistance here.  
  • Welfare provision. Are existing sanitary arrangements adequate? Can they cope with a potential increase in demands arising from a change in use of the building? Are appropriately segregated areas available for men, women and children, including toilets and changing areas? What laundry facilities are available?
  • Sleeping arrangements. If bedding is to be provided where will this be housed when not in use?
  • Cooking/catering. What cooking/catering facilities are available? Are these adequate? How will you supervise/control the use of these areas? If food is to be prepared and stored on the premises will this be compliant with current Food Hygiene regulations? Do you need to be licensed with the local authority as a food catering establishment?
  • Communication. Guests may be traumatised, come from varying ethnic backgrounds and have difficulty communicating with others. This may lead to tensions. Consider how this will be managed.
  • Safeguarding. Families with young children may be housed. Safeguarding procedures may need to be introduced or any existing procedures reviewed and updated to ensure the safety of both children and vulnerable adults using the premises.
  • Waste arrangements. Increased waste will be generated. Are your existing arrangements adequate to cater for this? Rubbish bins should be sited well away from the building, kept secured and emptied before they are full. Accumulation of waste will quickly attract vermin and create a health issue.
  • Lighting/heating/electrical safety. Are the existing lighting and heating provision adequate? Use of portable appliances to supplement existing arrangements should be restricted to proprietary electrical devices that have been subject to an appropriate PAT regime.
  • Security. Security of the property will also need to be reviewed to ensure the personal safety of individuals in the building, along with items of insured contents. Property owners/occupiers may wish to consider storing valuable portable items in a secure area of the building that can only be accessed by authorised persons.
This is not an inclusive list and property owners/occupiers will need to fully understand and consider their responsibilities when offering accommodation to refugees in order to ensure the safety and welfare of those individuals. 
Further information specific to refugees displaced by the conflict in Ukraine has been prepared by the Government Homes for Ukraine scheme and can be accessed here

Commercial policies - Important

You must notify us immediately if your client wants to provide accommodation for refugees at any of their properties.
We will endeavour to support your client in providing this accommodation but there are additional things they may need to do and consider, so it is important that you contact us ahead of them doing so.
To discuss please get in touch with your usual Ecclesiastical contact.