Multi-Agency Working in Hotels: The Caritas Experience

Each individual and also every human community is responsible for the concrete and actual realization of human dignity. Meanwhile, it is incumbent on States not only to protect human dignity but also to guarantee the conditions necessary for it to flourish in the integral promotion of the human person: “In political activity, we should remember that appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love and dedication.”

Dignitas Infinita, 65

Many CSAN members work on the frontlines, providing support and outreach to people seeking asylum in their communities, whether it be in the form of advice, ESOL classes, women friendly spaces or children’s activities. In recent years, with the increase in use of hotels as asylum accommodation, and the unsuitable conditions and lack of support provided therein, some members found themselves extending their support to assist those assigned contingency accommodation, such as hotels.

Refugee support organisations, including CSAN members, utilised their expertise and organically developed a multi-agency working partnership with likeminded organisations to address the needs of a vulnerable population despite numerous challenges. Such challenges include the lack of a centralised strategy and recognition of voluntary sector expertise, which lent to a lack of funding and resources for their work in addressing the gaps in services for those in hotels to ensure vital support services were provided.

Multi-agency working is an existing form of partnership working between different agencies and organisations, and there exist many different reasons for such partnership working, not least of which is meeting gaps in services and resource sharing. Accordingly, Caritas Shrewsbury worked together with partners in the Greater Manchester area to coordinate and provide vital support to hotels across the region. Caritas Shrewsbury initially ran wellbeing projects in its community to create safe spaces for asylum seeking and refugee women, as well as English classes, before they were asked by their local MP to support asylum seekers in a nearby hotel – this was the start of its work in asylum hotels.

Caritas Shrewsbury was interviewed about its work in hotels and its experience of multi-agency working, to identify best practices, challenges and recommendations for outreach support to hotels housing asylum seekers and refugees. CSAN also spoke with the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) about its model of support which differs from that of Caritas Shrewsbury (hereinafter CS).

The SVP is a national charity with multiple projects throughout the country focused on tackling poverty, as well as campaigning for social justice which includes advocating for refugees and asylum seekers. SVP engages community groups and volunteers in social action projects and extending support to asylum hotels is one such action taken by community groups.

The findings from these semi-structured interviews, together with organisational impact reports, were analysed to identify prevalent themes and issues, and contributed to the recommendations. The following is a summary of the findings and a list of recommendations to be used for advocacy purposes.


1.Lack of Strategy

‘there was no such strategy, [no] clear vision [of] who is responsible for what’ (CS, July 2023).

The voluntary sector was not informed about the hotels opening in their local area, nor included in any initial plans to provide support in the hotels, lending to inadequate support upon their opening and a gap in the provision of vital services.

The voluntary sector was actively engaged by the healthcare services who recognised the expertise available, but as they were not part of the Home Office strategy, the voluntary sector lacked the necessary funding to cover the level of support provided and resources required, particularly for a prolonged period.

In other locations, community groups took the initiative to reach out to hotels and coordinate support upon learning of the arrival of people seeking asylum, recognising the need for support and lack of services available, further illustrating the impact of a lack of strategy and community involvement.

2. Voluntary Sector Expertise

‘what can we offer? What is our capacity? And how can we offer this to [hotels]?’ (CS, July 2023).

The voluntary sector is recognised for its specialist understanding of its communities, and how to tailor support distinctly for asylum seekers and refugees, particularly in a hostile environment with reduced support from the authorities.

Its reactive response to organise itself, liaise with the necessary stakeholders and discuss a collective response to ensure support fill the gaps in services illustrates its expertise and ability to operate in an ad-hoc manner and emergency setting.

The government’s repurposing of barracks and further use of isolated accommodation sites fails to recognise the importance of the voluntary sector and its expertise in providing vital support services, as charities and community groups are prevented from extending support due to the isolated locations of such places.

3. Communication & Collaboration

The lack of communication from the Home Office and authorities regarding the opening of hotels and their locations prevent the voluntary sector from planning and allocating resources accordingly.

The voluntary sector has not only the expertise but the existing relationships with local stakeholders, including the community, upon whom they can call to collaborate and ensure consistency of support across accommodation as well as a clearer understanding of responsibilities.

4. Authority & Accountability

‘In general, [the work] is about who’s got the authority, who’s got the power, who can decide things, how people look at the third sector’ (CS, July 2023).

The Home Office’s failure to recognise the expertise of the voluntary sector arguably affects how the sector is viewed by the contractors, thereby lending to miscommunication and lack of collaboration by accommodation staff, which can in turn impact service provision.

There is noted to be a lot of mistrust of the Home Office and Home Office officials by people seeking asylum, which means they are more likely to engage with the voluntary sector and community groups when accessing support, thus demonstrating the importance of the voluntary sector’s involvement in planning and implementing asylum accommodation.


1. In developing and rolling out an accommodation strategy, the Home Office should consult with the voluntary sector to fully understand the needs of the refugees and asylum seekers they will be accommodating, so they are able to develop a framework with identified roles and responsibilities for all involved, to avoid gaps in services.

2. The voluntary sector must be invited to discussions related to supporting asylum seekers and refugees in hotel accommodation to utilise their expertise and allow them prior notification of involved stakeholders and the location of proposed hotels, so as to avoid ad-hoc and reactive responses by allowing them adequate time to prepare and coordinate.

3. The statutory authorities need to ensure the voluntary sector has the funding and resources necessary to carry out their work and to extend adequate support to those in hotels, including paid staff. 

4. Monitoring and evaluation of accommodation services and support must be incorporated from the initial stage to allow for best practices to develop, ensure efficient multi-agency working and effective communication.

5. Crisis/emergency working is not conducive to staff health and wellbeing and so should be avoided (where possible), with recognition for the effects of vicarious trauma on staff and the need for psychosocial support for staff.