Supporting refugees, asylum seekers and people from abroad

Hammersmith & Fulham Council recognise that refugees and asylum seekers and people from abroad make significant contributions to our economy and community, and we value the diversity they bring.

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of H&F, contemplates the values we share and the contribution refugees have made to the borough.

  • Message from Cllr Stephen Cowan written in celebration of World Refugee Day 2020

    Every year that passes, there are fewer people left who remember the horrors of the Second World War first hand. Most of of those who can still bear witness were children when the war broke out; some lived through the war here at home but others, like our own Lord Alf Dubs, were washed up on our shores by the violent upheaval that overtook our continent and left families scattered and broken.

    Alf arrived here, aged 6, on a kindertransport train organised by Nicky Winton, known as Britain’s Schindler. Winton saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children who would otherwise have been murdered, as many of Alf’s family were. Alf was one of the lucky ones. He arrived from Prague, speaking no English, with nothing more than a knapsack on his back, but the UK welcomed him and gave him the chance of a better life. Forty years after his arrival here he was part of the team that negotiated Peace in Northern Ireland and the global ban on cluster bombs.

    Last month we marked 75 years since Victory in Europe. Alf was part of those commemorations, alongside many others across our borough, old and young.

    Those who were there during the war remind us that the horrors they experienced weren’t so long ago. Dame Vera Lynn, who sadly passed away earlier this week, who had sung to the troops three quarters of a century before, only recently serenaded the nation with We’ll Meet Again. And we remembered the role Great Britain played to bring that suffering to an end and how that greatest of generations kept striving to change our country for the better in the decades that followed.

    The refugee emergency of today is the greatest humanitarian crisis Europe has faced since World War Two. The bombs that destroy cities these days are more sophisticated, and supplemented with mass chemical attacks, but the terror experienced by those being bombed is exactly what was felt by our grandparent’s generation who lived through the Blitz or faced murderous Nazi cruelty in mainland Europe.

    And while in the 1930s, the kindertransport gave refugee children a legal route to safety, in the 21st century it has been substituted by squalid and dangerous camps on Europe’s borders and flimsy dinghies, or dangerous refrigerated lorries. But for the children fleeing war the fear is the same as it was 75 years ago.

    Saturday is World Refugee Day. A day to celebrate those countries that provide refuge and to reconfirm our commitment to be a safe haven for those fleeing terror.

    Our first priority as a borough will always be our residents; that’s why Hammersmith & Fulham has the third-lowest council tax in Britain, has taken all children out of homeless B&B accommodation, offers free homecare to our elderly and Disabled residents and provides free breakfasts for all primary school children. But Hammersmith & Fulham is also the only council in the country to send its social workers into camps to rescue child refugees and our borough looks after 123 refugee children and has made a commitment to take more.

    Look at the countries that are generous towards refugees and there’s a common denominator; they’re also compassionate towards their own citizens and have built some of the most successful and admirable societies anywhere.

    So, as we celebrate World Refugee Day, it gives us a moment to contemplate the country we are, the values we share and the contribution refugees have made to our country. And just as our grandparents’ generation did, it also gives us the opportunity to reflect on the type of country we want to bequeath to those who come after us.

    Happy World Refugee Day.

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Image caption: Image 1: Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker turned up to cheer on H&F child refugees during a training session at Craven Cottage

We are committed to supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and people from abroad.

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Image caption: Image 2: National Refugee Week event at Hammersmith Town Hall with Lord Dubs (left) and Vanessa Redgrave (right centre)

We provide support through our children's services, housing and adult social care teams, partners and community organisations. We provide support to:

  • child refugees and Dubs children
  • unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged under 18 years, and as care leavers up to 25 years
  • Syrian vulnerable families and adults resettlement scheme
  • people from abroad with no recourse to public funds.

All links in the following sections open in a new window or tab.

  • Support for child refugees and child asylum seekers

    Committed to supporting our children and young people, we currently support over 125 vulnerable refugee children and young people, and assist in the following ways.

    Immigration and settlement:

    • We support the young people (YP) to make their asylum application at the Home Office.
    • Social workers, key workers or foster carers accompany the YPs to all interviews with solicitors and immigration officials, providing them with continuous support during their asylum application, and navigating complex systems.
    • We refer and support YPs to the Red Cross Tracing Services to find lost missing family members.

    Housing and financial support:

    • We accommodate YPs according to their needs and vulnerability, either with a foster family or in semi-independent accommodation.
    • We provide the YPs in semi-independent accommodation with a weekly allowance to pay for their food and fares if they are in education.
    • We support the YPs to open a bank account.
    • We provide YPs living in SIL’s with a clothing allowance which is paid three times a year.


    • We support the YPs to access health services, such as their local GP, migrant health clinic, opticians, and dentist.
    • With the agreement of the YP, we refer them to the Looked After Nurse and the Children Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

    Life skills, education and work:

    • Social workers along with their carers and key workers work with YPs to develop their independent life skills such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
    • The virtual school teacher, SW, tutor and YP (up to age 18) meet three times a year to discuss their progress and devise targets and strategies to further their educational development.
    • We organise regular 3 way meetings with the YPs, carers or key-workers, to discuss their progress and address any issues of concern.
    • The virtual school support the YPs to enrol at a school or college.
    • The virtual school organise 10 hours of ESOL tuition with YPs who have no English skills.
    • If deemed necessary, we organise one to one tuition for the YPs in individual subjects.
    • We provide the YPs with self-study resources that support independent learning.
    • For YPs interested in accessing further educational provision, we refer them to organisations such as CARAS, the British Red Cross Young Refugee Service and the Refugee Council.
    • We refer interested YPs to work placement opportunities such as working at Otto Restaurant in the centre of London.

    Social skills, community and empowerment:

    • We encourage the YPs to participate in forums and meetings such as the child in care council in which they can voice their opinions and views about the service the local authority is providing.
    • We refer interested YPs to organisations which provide them with enrichment opportunities such as the Build your Bike Programme or Phosphoros Theatre.
    • We refer YPs who are artistically minded to mentoring programmes with organisations such as Arts Emergency.
    • We support and provide funding for YPs to join a gym or join their local football club such as Lambeth Tigers FC or Kensington Dragons FC.
    • In collaboration with Fulham FC Foundation and Chelsea FC Foundation we organise a weekly football session which takes place at Eel Brook Common.
    • We organise trips for the YPs to football matches and theatre performances.


  • Support for families and adult refugees and asylum seekers

    We support Syrian refugee families and single people to resettle in the borough through our Housing Solutions Service and working with partners.  We currently support over 129 people/families in the following ways.

    Welcome and support:

    • Organise and have a plan of support in place for our refugee families and single people so they are supported from the time they arrive in the UK
    • Agree resettlement plans with each family to ensure the right support and services are in place so they can settle in their new homes and communities.
    • Greet refugees upon arrival to ensure they have a safe and comfortable first experience in the UK.
    • Provide intensive casework support which starts with daily contact from first arrival and then on an ongoing basis as the families/single people settle into their new homes and lives.

    Accommodation and community orientation:

    • Provide information to our families/single refugees about their accommodation ensuring the household understands both their legal and contractual rights and responsibilities and understand safety information.
    • Translate information into different languages such as Arabic to communicate critical information to share on arrival at the accommodation.
    • Provide support on how to use relevant equipment and fixtures at the property.
    • Support refugees with local community orientation.
    • Ensure our refugees can use public transport and to show them local facilities such as places of worship and local shops and markets.  


    • Through our relationships with key healthcare providers, we prepare support in advance of arrival for specialist medical cases.
    • This includes registering refugees with a local GP.
    • Referring families/single people to mental health services and counselling (Claybrook, Freedom from Torture) where appropriate.
    • Ensure our families/single people know how to access ongoing support

    Education and employment:

    • Work closely with colleagues in Children’s Services to ensure that school places and nurseries are identified for refugee children prior to arrival.
    • Register children with nurseries or schools and assisting with application process, helping with applications for free meals and school vouchers and uniforms.
    • Help to access language support and build the skills to support adults and children to settle into the UK and thrive.
    • Work with ESOL providers such as West London College, Adult Learning and Skills Service, Burleigh College, Macbeth Centre, Kensington and Chelsea College and City of Westminster College to access and provide ESOL courses.
    • Working with our partners: BEAM, Breaking Barriers and Tern, we support refugees into employment.
    • Supports refugees into entrepreneurship by providing services through business exploration.
    • Develop relationships with local Job Centre Plus offices so that the refugee programme is understood by key stakeholders and service provision meets the needs of refugee families.
    • Assist our refugees with accessing financial support including welfare benefit claims to ensure they are financially included.   

    Building and sustaining housing opportunities:

    • Working collaboratively and building partnerships with housing associations and landlords to promote our resettlement programme and encourage them to support refugees by providing affordable and safe housing.
    • We work in partnership with Shepherds Bush Housing Association, Peabody, Harouni Group, Notting Hill Housing Group, private landlords, and charity groups.
    • We work closely with housing providers to ensure accommodation meets legal health and safety compliance requirements and are furnished appropriately.  

    If you become aware of refugees or asylum seekers needing help with homelessness within the borough, they can also contact Housing Solutions for advice on: 020 8753 4198, option 1, option 1.

  • Support for people with no recourse public funds

    We support residents with no recourse to public funds who are particularly vulnerable and are struggling with their finances or housing. Support is provided through our Housing Solutions Service, Adult Social Care and Childrens Services in the following ways.

    • Support is provided through HEP with accommodation and subsistence payments.
    • Residents are helped to access appropriate legal representation and apply to the Home Office to remove the restrictions created by no recourse to public funds ad access financial support where possible.

    If you are a resident with no recourse to public funds and struggling, or you know someone affected and struggling who needs support, you can contact us for an assessment and help in the following ways:

    Families with children
    Contact Family Services.
    Telephone: 020 8753 6600

    Contact the Community Response and Reablement team.
    Telephone: 020 8753 4198 and select option 3
    We will aim to respond to your query within 72 hours.
    For urgent support outside of office hours, please contact the Emergency Duty Team on: 020 8748 8588.

    If you become aware of refugees or asylum seekers needing help with homelessness within the borough, they can also contact Housing Solutions for advice on: 020 8753 4198, option 1, option 1.

News stories about refugees