Legal nuts and bolts

What health and safety points do I need to think about?
How are finances and insurance handled?
How do I manage data protection and confidentiality?
What safeguarding and diversity issues do I need to consider?


The extent to which you will need policies and other things will depend to some extent on the kind of structure you decided to adopt.

If you are part of a larger organisation, then your host organisation will already have these things in place.

BUT – it still makes sense to review them to see what they mean to your cafe, and whether they need to be adjusted to fit your needs.

It also makes sense to read the rest of this section just in case there are issues which your host organisation’s policies and procedures don’t cover.

Health and safety

Your group will have a basic ‘duty of care’ to avoid causing injury to anyone through carelessness.

Do I need a health and safety policy?

It’s only a legal obligation if you have more than five employees. If not, it can still be useful, as it shows that you have considered your responsibilities. It is also likely to be a precondition for many funders.

You’ll find guidance as well as templates for writing your policy at the website of the Health and Safety Executive here:

What about risk assessments?

While you do not need to have a health and safety policy, you could find yourself in trouble if you haven’t done an assessment of risk, and someone gets hurt.

You’ll find a great guide to risk assessment for community groups here: 

The Devon Memory Cafe Consortium (DMCC) has also produced a template for you to use, as well as a worked example: 

Your risk assessment should include both the building you are using, and any activities that you might be doing.

You should also think about:

  • Fire safety – make sure that all volunteers know what do in the event of a fire, and where the exits are.
  • First aid training. You should consider first aid training for at least two of your volunteers, and make sure you have a first aid kit available. For more information visit The Red Cross at or St. John’s Ambulance at
  • You should keep a register of people coming to the cafe, along with emergency contact details (careful of data protection though – see below).
  • If you are preparing or serving food, then you will need to have food hygiene training in place for those volunteers who are involved with this. DMCC’s Food Hygiene/Safety Policy provides some useful guidance.

Finances and insurance

When you are setting up your group, you should lay out how you will handle the finances.

It doesn’t matter whether you decide to become a charity or remain as an unincorporated organisation – either way, you should state in writing that:

  • All the money you raise will be spent in pursuit of the aims laid out in your constitution.
  • There will be a bank account at a bank agreed by the committee.
  • There will be at least three signatories, who will not be related to each other.

If you are a charity, then it should also say that:

  • The Treasurer will keep a record of income and expenditure, and will report at every meeting.
  • An annual statement of accounts will be given to the Annual General Meeting.

Not all banks offer accounts for voluntary groups. The Resource Centre has a guide to choosing a suitable bank here: 

The Resource Centre also has comprehensive guidance on managing your group’s finances, including reporting requirements for charities, here: 

As for insurance, anyone that organises any public event has public liability. In other words, if something goes wrong, then someone may well have a claim against your group. We’re talking here about things like:

  • Damage or loss to property

  • Injury

This is why it’s important to think about Public Liability Insurance. You don’t HAVE to have it, but if something goes wrong, it could be catastrophic for your group. If your group is an unincorporated association, then it will be the individuals involved in the group who have liability. That’s you.

You may also find that many partner groups will refuse to refer people to you if you don’t have it. Funders may also insist upon it.

Sometimes, the venue you are using might have its own Public Liability Insurance, which may extend to groups making use of its facilities. If this is the case then you should always check that you, and the activities you engage in, are covered.

It’s important to note that Public Liability Insurance covers you against claims from members of the public, but NOT volunteers. In order to protect volunteers, you should have Employer’s Liability Insurance.

The Resource Centre has comprehensive guidance on both Public and Employer’s Liability Insurance here: 


Many of the people using memory cafes can be considered vulnerable. Dementia can make people vulnerable to abuse or mistreatment, and less able to know what do about it. Similarly, carers can be vulnerable in their own right, both to abuse and to self-neglect, especially if they are overwhelmed. Memory cafe volunteers might see things, or be told things, that concern them.

Understanding what our responsibilities are around the safeguarding of people using memory cafes is crucial. There are two important things that cafes need to do to protect people:

Firstly, volunteers should receive training in safeguarding. It doesn’t need to be in-depth – the most important things are:

  • Volunteers need to be able to recognize potential abuse or neglect

  • Volunteers need to know what to do if they have concerns

Secondly, you need to have a designated person responsible for safeguarding, to whom volunteers can express any concerns they might have.

You’ll find comprehensive resources around safeguarding, including training, at the website of the Torbay & Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership here: 

Listen here to what other memory cafe co-ordinators tell their volunteers about safeguarding:

Data protection and confidentiality

If you hold a register of people attending a cafe, then you are holding personal data.

As such, your cafe has a duty to comply with both the Data Protection Act 2018, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it sounds, so long as you are adhering to a basic set of principles. You need to:

  • Understand what personal data is

  • Only collect the data you need, for a clearly defined purpose

  • Don’t keep it for longer than you need it

  • Tell people what data you have about them if they ask, and remove it if they ask

  • Make sure that people know how to get in touch with you regarding the data you hold about them

  • Store their data securely

The Resource Centre has a comprehensive guide to understanding your responsibilities for data protection here: 


Memory cafes are open to everyone.

They should have an atmosphere of friendship, respect and care for each other. In particular, we aim to treat everyone equally, regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

It’s a good idea to have a policy or statement around diversity.

  • It will focus your mind on what you need to do to make sure you are reaching all parts of your communities.

  • It will make it clear to staff volunteers and members what is expected of them, and what they expect from you.

  • It will often be a requirement of funding bodies, and of those who might refer potential members to you.

Here are some of the key areas you should think about addressing in your statement:

Accessibility for people with disabilities, including dementia

We want to make sure that anyone can come to a memory cafe, so we will do our best to make sure cafes are as accessible as possible.

Ethnic diversity

Memory cafes are for everyone affected by dementia or memory problems. We aim to organise a range of events and activities to suit the interests and meet the needs of a wide variety of people.

For example, we hold parties for Christmas and Eid, if we have members who are Christian and members who are Muslim.

We are open to new ideas, and encourage members to share their cultural heritage with one another.

Inclusion and respect

Everyone should be made to feel equally welcome and included.

Sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or otherwise offensive and inflammatory remarks and behaviour are not acceptable. These constitute harassment, and have no place in a memory cafe.

Dealing with discrimination and harassment

If anyone feels they have been discriminated against or harassed at a memory cafe, they should raise this with the coordinator.

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