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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Shelter standards raised

July 09 2014
New accreditation scheme for night shelters launches

A  new accreditation scheme aimed at guaranteeing minimum standards in homeless night shelters across the country has been officially launched.

The 'night shelter quality mark’ was proposed by Housing Justice – and reported in The Pavement – six months ago. Since then, they have worked with eight shelters to develop the scheme, which was launched in Birmingham in June.

An official pilot will run over the winter and Paul Reily, Housing Justice shelter liaison coordinator, hopes that many other shelters will sign up to be evaluated and accredited. Until now there have been no recommended standards for night shelters.

The ‘quality mark’ covers areas such as volunteer training, fire risk assessments, health and safety procedures – and encourages partnership working. Shelters are advised to provide guests with opportunities to get involved in day-to-day tasks and to access meaningful activities. Participating shelters are required to have complaints and feedback procedures.

The new quality mark draws on the experience of the many established night shelters that already have excellent working practices in place.

Both guests and volunteer groups stand to benefit from these improvements. Bradford Inn Churches will now save money on their insurance premium after their measures were found to be compliant with the new standards.

Liz Murray, of Barnet Night Shelter, welcomes “the chance to be part of a good quality system to ensure that guests and volunteers have a safe and positive experience”.

Homeless Link has also welcomed the quality mark. Gary Messenger, head of strategy and partnerships for Homeless Link, said: “Church night shelters play an integral role in providing a safety net for homeless and vulnerable people. “I am really excited about the new Housing Justice night shelter quality mark and I would hope all shelters sign up to it”.

Signing up to be accredited and evaluated by Housing Justice will be voluntary; shelters do not have to be accredited to operate.

The vast majority of night shelters provide a good service. However, a small minority have struggled to operate safely or become unfit for purpose due to lack of funds. In 2011, Housing Justice worked with other local agencies to close one such shelter in Newham, London. A new one has since opened in the borough. Lindsay Stronge

Stayed in a shelter recently? How was it? @ThePavementMag