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Welcome to Lewisham

We are proud to be Borough of Sanctuary and welcome all sanctuary seekers, refugees, people seeking asylum, people who have no source of public funds and anyone who is rebuilding their life in Lewisham.
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Printable Welcome leaflets with all key information is available in English, Arabic, Pashto, Farsi, Kurdish Sorani, Spanish, Ukrainian and Russian.

Emergencies and urgent help

Is your life in danger? 

Call 999 if you are in immediate danger, like if you need an ambulance, the fire service or the police to come right away. In a medical emergency you can also go to a hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. In Lewisham the nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) services are found at: University Hospital Lewisham, Lewisham High St, London SE13 6LH.

Do you need urgent medical or mental health advice?

Call 111 for urgent medical or mental health advice or you need urgent care and your GP, pharmacy or dental practice is closed. Interpreters are available. You can also get advice and some medicines at a local pharmacy.  

Can you smell a gas leak?

If you smell gas, call the National Gas Emergency Service free of charge on 0800 111 999.

Do you need somewhere to sleep tonight? 

Find out how to get help if you are homeless or likely to be homeless soon or call 0808 178 0939. 

If you don’t have anywhere to sleep tonight and it is after 5pm on a weekday or weekend, call 020 8314 7007 for emergency housing advice and help.

If you or someone you know is sleeping on the street (sleeping rough) visit Streetlink.


Get around Lewisham by bus, train or bike. 

Planning your journey

Paying for your journey

What is pay as you go? 

You cannot pay with cash on buses. Instead, use a contactless debit/credit card, smartphone or Oyster Card that can be purchased and topped up at a station or Oyster top-up shop.

Do I need a ticket before starting my journey?

Either use pay-as-you-go using your contactless card or smartphone, or buy a ticket in advance. Tickets and Oyster cards are not available for purchase on buses or trains.

How do I show I’ve paid?

  • When starting your journey, touch your card on the card reader or show your ticket when asked.
  • Watch this video on contactless payment.
  • If you go by train (National Rail, Overground or DLR) you will also need to touch out.
  • You do not need to touch out on buses.

How can I find the cheapest travel? 

  • Using buses and paying with pay-as-you-go is often the cheapest option.
  • If you use contactless or Oyster pay as you go, you can make unlimited bus and tram journeys within one hour.
  • If you use pay as you go, you will never pay more than a day ticket price (Travelcard), and sometimes you will pay less.
  • To compare prices and search for the cheapest ticket check TFL’s What’s the best ticket for me?

Can I or my child get free or discounted travel?


  • At a bus station or stop see local bus routes shown on the ‘spider map’.
  • You can also check you are at the right stop, by viewing the mini-map in the middle of the spider map. The stops are shown as letters in red bubbles on the map and also on the bus stop post.
  • View Lewisham’s bus spider maps.


There are 3 different rail networks in Lewisham – National Rail, Docklands Light Rail (DLR) and the London Overground.

  • There are many National Rail stations throughout the borough for getting around Lewisham or travelling to other parts of London or around the UK.
  • Lewisham has DLR stations at Deptford Bridge, Elverson Road and Lewisham (where you can connect to National Rail trains).View a DLR map.
  • The London Overground stops at New Cross, New Cross Gate, Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill and Sydenham. View a London Overground map.


Where can I get a bike for free or cheaply?

Rules of the Road

The Highway Code is a set of rules for all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. It also has sections on traffic signs, signals and road markings. 


Do you need somewhere to live?

Get housing support, find somewhere to live or get help with homelessness.

See the emergencies and urgent help section if you have nowhere to sleep tonight and need emergency accommodation.

If you have received notice that you need to leave your current accommodation you should contact the council as soon as possible on 0808 178 0939. You will get help to work out your next steps and you may be asked to attend an appointment and bring in some documents. 

If you have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) and are one of the following:

  • families who are destitute or who are at risk of being destitute
  • single adults with care needs
  • young people leaving care

Then you may be eligible for assistance from the Council.

What is social housing?

The Council and Registered Providers of Social Housing offer support to eligible households for social housing. Due to high demand, there can be a long wait of several years before being offered social housing.

How does the Council decide who to provide housing for?

An allocation policy is used to work out who gets priority for social housing. You can find out more about who is eligible, how housing is allocated or how to apply for social housing.

What does it mean to have a ‘local connection’?

You have a local connection to a council area if you live or have lived there recently, work there, have close family living there, receive care leavers support there, or have lived in asylum support housing there.

Find more guidance on local connections on Shelter's website.

What if the wait is too long or I’m not eligible?

There are other options, like renting privately, applying for social housing elsewhere, or swapping if you are already in social housing. Call Housing Options to discuss your options on 0808 178 0939.

How does temporary housing work and what if the housing offered is not suitable for me?

Shelter’s guide on temporary housing explains why you should accept an offer for temporary housing even if you do not want to live at the property.

I am fleeing domestic abuse and need somewhere to go

Athena is the main refuge provider in Lewisham and offers advice and support.

There are also groups that can support you if you are experiencing domestic violence, including some for particular communities or which provide services in various languages.

What are my rights if renting from a private landlord?

Citizens Advice provide information on renting privately from a landlord, and what to do if there is a problem with your property.

How can I report a rogue landlord (a landlord who is breaking the law)?

Find out what to do if you have a rogue landlord.

Can the council provide a deposit or act as a guarantor?

The Council cannot act as guarantor. We may be able to provide a deposit for a suitable property, but you would need to discuss this with your housing advisor.

What housing advice and support can I get?

General information about housing for new arrivals by immigration status.

Citizens Advice gives advice on housing

Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) provide a specialist housing advice service.

The 999 Club in Deptford gives advice and support to those experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Referrals can be made to eat@999club.org or in person at the Gateway.

Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL) offers housing advice to vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and those with no recourse to public funds. Email info@afril.org.uk or call 0208 297 4111.

If you have no recourse to public funds, use the NRPF Network’s toolkit to find out where you can get housing and financial advice.

Your household – your bills, utilities, and bins

Your bills - paying council tax, electricity, gas, water, broadband, TV, phone

When renting a property, you are usually responsible for paying your own bills. In social housing, you may also need to pay for communal services and utilities.

What is a TV Licence?

If you want to watch live television, including the BBC, then you will need to pay for a TV Licence.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is paid to Lewisham Council to help pay for services provided by the council.

Do I have to pay Council Tax? Can I get a discount?

Find out who has to pay council tax and whether you might be able to pay a reduced amount.

How do I pay my energy bills?

Find out how to pay your energy bills

If you need help to pay your bills for any reason, see the advice and support section.

Recycling and rubbish – your bins

If you need help with furnishing your flat or other support with household items or food, see food, furniture and clothing.

Food, furniture, and clothing

Where can I get a hot meal or free or very low cost food and other groceries?

  • Food banks provide free food and other essential items to those in need. You usually need a referral from your GP or a support organisation.
  • Social supermarkets also provide food and other items at very low cost, often for a low one-off fee each time you shop.

You can search for Lewisham’s food projects on Lewisham Local’s Community Directory or go to Good Food Lewisham, select the ‘Food Justice’ tab, then ‘Community Meals and Food Support’ to download a list of food projects.

Olio app connects you to people giving away free household items and food. 

TooGoodtoGo allows you to collect food from supermarkets and restaurants for a small fee.

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 who is a British citizen, you may be able to get help to buy healthy food and milk. You need to be receiving certain benefits, so check the NHS Healthy Start website to see if you are eligible to apply. 

Where can I find household, clothing and other items for free or at low cost?

Lewisham Donation Hub provides a face-to-face service where you can get help with clothing, items for your home as well as food.

Lewisham Bank of Things gives free educational and hygiene items to young people.

The Turn2Us Grants Checker can help you find local charities and grants, free products and services.

Join Freecycle and Freegle to find free things which you would need to collect yourself. The Olio app also connects you to people giving away free household items and food.

Advice and support

Where can I find information and support for sanctuary seekers in Lewisham?

Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) provides advice on immigration, housing, and welfare benefits to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Lewisham and neighbouring areas. They also offer counselling, emotional support, gardening, English classes, and more.

Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL) support vulnerable asylum seekers, migrants and refugees. This includes a supplementary school, a foodbank, advice and advocacy, arts-based wellbeing projects, gardening and an immigration advice project in partnership with Southwark Law Centre.

What if I have no recourse to public funds?

See our NRPF pages and visit the NRPF Network’s toolkit to find out where you can get housing and financial advice.

What other support is there for refugees and asylum seekers?

For information on whether the Refugee Council can offer support as well as for signposting to other services, call the Refugee Council’s Infoline on 0808 196 7272 for free Mondays and Thursdays between 9.30am and 12.30pm. The service works with people seeking asylum who are experiencing, or at risk of, crisis and destitution.

The Happy Baby Community provides support for women who have fled from violence or traffickers and are pregnant or with a young child and are seeking international protection in the UK. Contact them on 07394 609388.

What support is available to Ukrainian nationals?

Find out about support in Lewisham for Ukrainian nationals.

How can I learn more about the UK Immigration and Asylum system?

See the Right to Remain Toolkit.

Where can I get advice on welfare benefits such as universal credit, as well as debt, housing, employment or consumer rights?

Citizens Advice Lewisham (CAL) offers free, confidential, impartial advice on welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment and consumer rights. They also offer general immigration advice and can make referrals to other services. Call 0800 231 5453 or visit their website for opening hours and outreach services). 

Community Advice Works in New Cross Gate offer welfare benefits, housing, money issues or general advice including a face-to-face drop-in service.

Lewisham Multilingual Advice Service (LMAS) offers free advice, assistance and advocacy in different languages. Call 020 8314 5777. 

See the Money section for more advice on benefits, debt or when you are struggling with money.

Where can I find wellbeing support? 

Community Connections Lewisham will help Lewisham residents age 18+ find local services and groups that can help to improve your health and wellbeing, including places where you can go for free food and activities. Call 0330 058 3464 or fill in the referral form and CCL will call you.

Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) offers wellbeing support such as counselling and support groups. 

Lewisham’s Warm Welcomes are free places you can go throughout the winter months to meet people, take part in activities and get support. Find your nearest Warm Welcome as well as other projects, organisations and services in Lewisham by searching Lewisham Local’s Community Directory

Lewisham Services Drop-in at the Irish Centre is a great place to go to find out about lots of different services and meet them in person. Ask about how each service can help you, have a tea or coffee and sit down to a chat with other visitors. Drop-ins takes place every Thursday, 10am-12pm at the Irish Centre 2A Davenport Rd, London, SE6 2AZ.

The CommUNITY Space in Lewisham shopping centre is another place to go to meet services in person. 

See the Money section for more advice on benefits, asylum support, debt or when you are struggling with money.


What benefits am I entitled to?

Benefits explained.

BetterOff Lewisham tool shows you the benefits you are entitled to and will help you to apply for them online.

What is asylum support and how do I claim it?

If you have applied for asylum, you may be able to get asylum support from the UK Home Office Border Agency.

Also see Factsheets on types of asylum support, such as Section 95 Support to those waiting for their asylum decision, Section 4 Support for refused asylum seekers, and Extra payments to pregnant women or dependent children

Need help with your utilities bills?

Citizens Advice 'Struggling to Pay Your Energy Bills’.

South East London Community Energy provides free advice if you need help to pay your energy bills. The service is in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Bengali and Urdu.

British Gas Energy Trust provides advice and support with your energy bills, regardless who your supplier is.

Thames Water is the water supplier in Lewisham. Find out about their programmes to help if you are struggling to pay your water bill.

Need help with your mobile phone, internet or TV bills?

Citizens Advice give advice if you are struggling to pay your phone, internet or TV bills.

Need more advice if you are in debt, on a low income or otherwise struggling to pay your bills?

See what support you can get with the cost of living.

Answer a few questions online about any debt you have or bills you are struggling with at Worrying About Money Lewisham to get signposted to advice or download a leaflet in English, Arabic, Spanish or Kurdish (Sorani).

If you are struggling to pay your bills because you are on a low income, find out about income support grants

If you have been homeless and are in receipt of benefits you might be eligible for a Lewisham Single Support Grant.

Adult education and learning English

Learning English

Adult Learning Lewisham and Lewisham College provide English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. They will assess your English level and advise on the right ESOL course for you. 

You can find more formal and informal ESOL classes on the Community Connections directory page.

Where can I find other courses?

Search for an Adult Learning Lewisham course.

Lewisham College has a wide range of courses. Call 020 3757 3000 for course advice. 

Local community centres also offer workshops and classes. Search for your local community centre on the Lewisham Local directory.

Lewisham libraries host short courses and events.

Re-coded offers free coding courses to sanctuary seekers.

What is the right course for me? 

Courses can be accredited (qualification) or non-accredited. Adult Learning Lewisham provides a free careers, information, advice and guidance service to help you choose the right course and gain employment.

Lewisham Works provides careers advice and guidance as well as training specific to some types of jobs. Residents can email jobsandskills@lewisham.gov.uk with your name, contact details, and what you would like support with or complete a Lewisham Works online registration form.

Finding work and volunteering


Volunteering is a great way to gain skills and experience, meet people and practice English. 

Lewisham Local run a Support into Volunteering Service where you meet with an adviser who will match you to a volunteer role. Sessions run on Thursdays in Lewisham Irish Centre, 2A Davenport Rd, London SE6 2AZ, 10.30am to 12.30pm. You can also search for volunteering opportunities or sign up to their volunteering e-newsletter.

Simply Volunteer London lists London-wide volunteering opportunities.

Can I use my qualifications from overseas?

If you have an overseas qualification and you require a certificate of comparison to find out and prove its UK equivalent (for example if you need it to study or apply for a job). Visit UK ENIC for help with this. 

  • Note there is a fee for this service. You may be able to get help with this through an employability support service.
  • Refugees can still apply for a Statement of Comparability even if they lack the documents asked for.

You will need to mention your refugee status during the application process and submit proof of it (for example, a copy of your biometric residence permit (BRP) or a letter from the Council).

Employability support

Lewisham Works is a free service helping unemployed Lewisham residents to gain new skills and get a job. Support includes CV writing, job applications, interview skills, qualifications advice, support with UK ENIC, careers advice and you can also view local job opportunities on the website.

FaceWork offers employability training especially designed for sanctuary seekers and will support you in your career with things like CV help, communication skills and networking opportunities.

If you are claiming benefits, Job Centre Plus, Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) can help with employability skills like CV writing, finding jobs, free courses, and the chance to go to job fairs. 


Apprenticeships are paid jobs where you get hands on work experience whilst training for a qualification.

Applying for jobs

Search the UK government’s Find a Job directory.

Search for and apply for jobs on LinkedIn (you will need to sign up for a free account first).

Contact recruitment agencies or use job search engines, such as Total Jobs, CV Library or Indeed.

Search for local jobs in Lewisham through Lewisham Works.

Health and wellbeing

What is the National Health Service and what care am I entitled to?

Understand what you are entitled to from the National Health Service (NHS) in this NHS Entitlements Migrant Health Guide

Find out about NHS services in Southeast London.

Register with a GP surgery

  • A GP (General Practitioner) is your local doctor for health advice, medicine and referrals. You will usually visit your GP at a surgery or medical practice.
  • It's free to register with a GP.
  • All Lewisham Surgeries are Safe Surgeries - they should not be asking for proof of ID, address or immigration status, when registering.
  • When you register with a GP your information will not be passed onto police or immigration officers.

To register: 

  • find your nearest GP practice
  • register online or in person at the GP surgery 

Everyone living in the UK has the right to register with a GP. Having issues registering? 

  • Doctors of the World provides GP Access Cards which you can show to the receptionist when registering.
  • For further help, or if your registration was rejected, call Doctors of the World on 0808 1647 686 or NHS England on 0300 311 2233.
  • Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) have access to a healthcare advisor who you can speak to.

Waiting lists

Many NHS services including GPs have waiting lists. Find out about NHS waiting times.

Ask at a pharmacy

Pharmacies can offer some medical advice, some provide flu vaccines and can prescribe medicine for certain issues. Find a pharmacy.

Urgent care and emergencies

See emergencies and urgent help section.

Do you need transport to and from hospital?

Some people are eligible for non-emergency patient transport services (PTS). These services provide free transport to and from hospital for people including:

  • those whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey
  • those who find it difficult to walk
  • parents or guardians of children who are being transported

To find out if you're eligible for PTS and how to access it, speak to your GP or the healthcare professional who referred you to hospital.

Register with a dentist

  • Find a dentist on the NHS website.
  • Contact the dental practice to ask whether they are accepting new patients.

Get an eye test

Get vaccinated

Mental health and wellbeing

  • Make an appointment with your GP if you need mental health support - your GP can refer you to other services including community-led support sessions.
  • Find out more about mental health support around Lewisham.
  • Libraries often offer health and wellbeing sessions so find your local library and ask for their timetable or view health and wellness events in Lewisham libraries.
  • Join the library to borrow books, use the internet and access newspapers from all over the world, completely free. Lewisham Libraries also offer a free, friendly Home Library Delivery Service to residents who are disabled, ill, older or a carer.
  • The CommUNITY Space in Lewisham shopping centre has lots of activities.

Leisure centres and fitness

Are you looking for sports and leisure activities for children or young people?

See the Children and Young People section below.

Children and young people

What is safeguarding and what is Lewisham Council doing to keep children and young people safe, healthy and well?

The Council is responsible for safeguarding children and young people, which means looking out for their safety, health and wellbeing. Find out what Lewisham Council is doing to keep children and young people safe

Can I get help with the cost of childcare?

The UK Government provides some support to families for childcare. Find out what help you can get with the cost of childcare on the Childcare Choices website.

How can I find a nursery or childminder?

Search for Early Years childcare providers.

How do I apply for a school place?

Find out how to apply for a school place. When looking at which schools to put on your child’s school application, consider how long it will take your child to travel, have a look at the Locrating website, read school Ofsted reports, and contact schools to find out when they have open days so you can visit them and ask any questions you have.

Can I get help with the cost of school meals or uniform?

Find out about registering for free school meals and extra support. If you cannot pay for your child's school uniform, you should contact your child's school and ask if they can help. 

Lewisham Bank of Things also gives young people free educational and hygiene items (soap, deodorant and more).

How can I find out about activities and support for families, children and young people?

Activities for families with young children

Family Hubs are places where children, young people and their families can go when in need of help and support. You can also check the timetables for Lewisham Children and Family Centres.

Libraries often have sessions for children and families. Ask for their timetable or search for events on the Libraries events page.

If your child is in school, most school classes have a parents’ Whatsapp group you can ask to join. This might be organised by parents or the school and is a good way to find out about activities and events.

Where can I find Lewisham’s Youth Clubs?

Find out about Lewisham’s youth clubs and adventure playgrounds ages 8-19 (and up to 25 for those with SEND) and other services for young people provided by Youth First.

The Somerville is a community centre and youth club in Telegraph Hill offering a wide range of activities for children and young people. 

Getting active and going outdoors

Wildcat Wilderness in Catford, provides outdoor space for groups to hold community activities. Activities are often pay by donation. Mud Club hold regular sessions for families and young people and offer limited low-cost places.

The Ahoy Centre offers opportunities for disadvantaged at-risk young people and disabled participants to engage in sailing, rowing and other activities on the water.

Getting involved in your community

Scouts, Girlguiding and Woodcraft Folk are organisations offering regular group meetings, sometimes outdoors, with a range of activities to help children and young people develop. All of these groups either offer grants or low or no cost options to those who are unable to pay.

Get involved with the Young Mayor’s Team. If you are a young person interested in politics or getting involved in the community you can attend weekly Young Advisors meetings which take place 5pm-7pm Monday at Civic Suite, Catford, SE6 9SE. 

Theatre, Music and the Arts

Bellingham Beats is Trinity Laban’s dance classes for 5-13 year olds with reduced fees for those on Universal Credit and no fees for children eligible for free school meals.

Lewisham Youth Theatre offer free drama, performance and backstage training for 8-25 year olds.

Lewisham Music have opportunities to get involved with music in schools and in the community.

Lewisham Education and Arts Network (LEAN) publish a Youth Arts e-Newsletter with lots of information on arts activities for young people. Email LEAN to sign up at julia@leanarts.org.uk.

Mental Health and SEND

Insight Lewisham provides health and wellbeing support for young people.

Find things to do for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Community safety

Do you need to report a crime that isn’t an emergency?

Call 101 for non-urgent police reports or report a crime online

  • Safer Neighbourhood Teams work with local communities on concerns such as anti-social behaviour, graffiti, disorder or other quality-of-life issues.
  • Find your nearest Safer Neighbourhood Team by entering your postcode on the Met Police website.

Contact your local policing team.

You can volunteer locally to help with crime prevention with Neighbourhood Watch. Search for your nearest Neighbourhood Watch Group, attend meetings and find out about activities in your area to prevent crime

Would you like to report a hate crime, domestic violence or homophobic crime?

The police have a special team for this. Call 101 or if you are in immediate danger call 999.

Find out more about what the Council is doing to keep our communities safe

Things to do

Where can I find out about places to go and free events near me?

Subscribe to Lewisham Life. Our WhatsApp channel to find out about community news, events and support services. Search for events happening in Lewisham or sign up to Lewisham Life e-newsletter.

Find out about parks, community centres and things to do in your neighbourhood.

If you are age 60 or over, come along to a Positive Ageing Council (POSAC) meeting or get news by email.

Where are some places that offer free or low-cost activities?

Lewisham’s libraries host regular events and classes.

The Albany is an arts hub and community centre in Deptford.

Beckenham Place Park is the largest green space in Lewisham with woodland walks, community space, playgrounds, BMX track and swimming pond, hosting many events, covering parts of Bellingham and Downham. See Lewisham’s other parks for more places to go for fresh air and community events.

Besson Street Community Garden is a green space and education centre in New Cross Gate.

Blackheath Conservatoire offers art, music and drama classes and has subsidised places for refugees as well as a Ukrainian Choir on Sundays.

Creekside Discovery Centre is a nature park and outdoor education centre in Deptford.

Horniman Museum and Gardens is a museum with aquarium, butterfly house, animal walk and gardens with play equipment and offering regular events.

The Migration Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre explores the movement of people to and from the United Kingdom. 

Wildcat Wilderness is a community green space within an allotment site in Catford offering outdoor activities and gardening opportunities. 

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