Supporting Bilingual Families

Supporting Bilingual Families

The Supporting Bilingual Families project has been completed and is now closed. This page is for information only.

The WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services) Bilingual Family Support project assisted families from the Bengali, Somali, Cantonese and Vietnamese speaking communities who find it difficult to access the health and welfare information they require because they do not speak English as a first language.


WHFS delivered the project from 1993 to 2015, funded by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH).

Its importance was underlined in 2010 by research from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation which looked at the experience of poverty in the most deprived ethnic groups in Haringey and Tower Hamlets.  It showed that real barriers existed in the areas of access to work, education and skills, access to public services and general well-being.  Language was cited as a key obstacle affecting awareness of and interaction with public services and the Foundation recommended the professional training and recruitment of interpreters from within the community.

Our project

Our lead bilingual project worker is both trained to provide guidance and advice and has in-depth knowledge of the community, enabling WHFS to provide much needed support on health and social education, rights and benefits entitlements and access to family mediation and counselling in the event of family breakdown.

We also supported pregnant young women who were asylum seekers and, in some cases, were unable to register with a GP because they have no formal documentation or proof of address.  We helped them by acting as health advocates and providing translation services and health education to enable them to access the maternity care they needed.

This support reduced the very serious risks to mothers and babies of not receiving maternity healthcare, and relieved pressure on A&E departments by allowing young mothers to access health services as soon as possible, avoiding the need to seek unnecessary emergency healthcare.

We work closely with Doctors of the World, which is a clinic and advocacy programme in east London that provides medical care, information and practical support to vulnerable people, helping them access the healthcare they need.  The clinic is run by volunteer doctors, nurses and support workers who provide information and basic short-term healthcare to excluded people across the UK, such as vulnerable migrants, sex workers and people with no fixed address.

Further information

Please click here for information on our current projects.