Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS)

Engaging the community to better understand barriers to accessing health care

Part of our Data Journey's research case study series, with Think Social Tech.

May 2023


Data is important, because without it our community remains invisible. If you can collect data then do. 


Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS) is a human rights, feminist organisation run by and for Latin American migrant women living in the UK.

They support 2,000 women every year who are exposed to violations of their fundamental human rights, facing violence against women and girls, exploitation in low-paid sectors, trafficking, or enduring severe poverty and deprivation.

LAWRS provides direct support including casework for women experiencing gender-based violence, counselling and emotional support, advice on benefits, employment rights, family law and immigration, workshops and other integration activities.

All services are delivered in Spanish and Portuguese.

LAWRS also actively advocate for women’s rights, migrant’s rights and the rights of ethnic minorities at local, national and EU levels, working with sister organisations in the women and migrant sectors, as well as networks and campaigns, to tackle the vulnerabilities faced by Latin American women, who are affected by intersectional layers of discrimination.


Data approach

The Latin American community is largely overlooked in public datasets.

Few boroughs in London recognise the Latin American community in monitoring forms and they are not recognised as a diversity group in the 2021 census.

For this reason, data is particularly important to LAWRS. In 2011, they commissioned the report, No Longer Invisible with Trust for London. This collated robust evidence for the first time on the size and socio-economic features of the Latin America community.

The findings gave a picture of considerable hardship, discrimination and social exclusion.

It highlighted that 1 in 5 Latin Americans have never been to a GP.

Subsequent research by the Indo American Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO) in 2021 found that 1 in 7 Latin Americans are not registered with GPs

In 2021, LAWRS partnered with IRMO to deliver an Access to Healthcare project, funded by Southwark Council. Covid was disproportionately affecting the Latin American community. The project aimed to improve access to healthcare for Latin Americans by primarily supporting GP registration and by facilitating access to the Covid-19 vaccine in Southwark.

It achieved this by running a health and wellbeing helpline in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, by providing outreach support in both community languages at vaccination centres and pop-up clinics in Southwark. They also visited Latin American community spaces in the borough including businesses, nurseries and schools, unions, and churches.

IRMO’s outreach work was complemented by a series of webinars and information campaigns that addressed the informational gaps on vaccination, vaccine safety, requirements to access the vaccine and support to register with GPs as an entry point to the healthcare system.

Community members that accessed support through the project were also often supported with other healthcare needs such as booking appointments, translating letters from the GP or hospital or registering with a dentist.

The holistic and intersectional approach to working with the community of both organisations enabled the outreach workers to link people in with further support in areas such as welfare benefits, housing, immigration, employment, ESOL and counselling. 

They engaged with a total of 657 Latin Americans through this work, providing 144 people with in-depth support.

Gathering data was at the heart of all these conversations and the project. LAWRS wanted to delve deeper into understanding the barriers women faced to accessing GP services. They also wanted to surface and communicate this to Local Authorities and GPs.


The process

  1. The team came together and created a data sheet. They created headings for each column to identify what their data would look like. This meant outreach workers had a clear understanding of what to ask and what to record in the data sheet. More importantly, they understood how and why they needed to do this.
  2. The team also collectively identified the types of people and scenarios they were looking to highlight in the case studies. Examples included people with insecure immigration status or a young woman who is pregnant. Outreach workers had these in mind when delivering support to identify potential case study interviews.
  3. The project lead interviewed seven Latin Americans supported by the project. The interviews delved deeper into the realities of the many barriers they faced. They were used to create anonymous case studies at the end of the project, sharing stories of people with lived experience of intersecting forms of disadvantage and discrimination in the healthcare system.
  4. In webinars, the project lead ran Zoom polls and used Mentimeter to test understanding of the key messages and gather feedback. These achieved nearly 100% response rates. This was a big improvement on previous efforts using Google forms to gather feedback.

They discovered that 84% of their community using the service did not speak English.

However, typical interventions, such as leaflets in community languages were not helpful.

Women explained how they struggled to speak to receptionists, access interpreters to come to GP appointments and were often reliant on Apps to translate, which was particularly challenging during examinations.

They also noticed through their data that a large proportion are younger women and mothers. They are now advocating for additional services to support access to maternity care.

LAWRS produced a report with a range of recommendations.

It documents what they knew from their experience in a powerful way, providing a record of the situation and a tool to communicate the challenges that Migrants across boroughs in London are facing.

They are discussing this with the council and are exploring how to educate healthcare professionals.

As an organisation, LAWRS are looking at how to replicate and continue delivering this model of grassroots health access.


Advice to others

Data is important, because without it our community remains invisible. If you can collect data then do. 

LAWRS have found that creating reports based on data and including case studies have given them a powerful tool to share with commissioners, local authorities and healthcare providers. This is helping them to influence change. 


Knowing your community is important. There has to be trust if you want to collect data from people.

LAWRS have found that collecting data in person gathers much richer information and a higher response rate than paper forms or Google Form (even though both are translated).

Taking the time to speak to people, with outreach workers from their community and speaking the same language helped support participation in monitoring. It removed language barriers and helped answer sensitive questions. 


Case studies bring data to life. It humanises data and makes the experiences relatable. 

LAWRS used case studies to highlight the various barriers women face at every stage to accessing a GP (such as filling in the form, appointment booking, speaking to the GP)


Come together as a team to identify what you might find out based on your experiences. 

LAWRS are fairly early stage with data collection of this nature. They use Lamplight to record interactions, but need tailored questions about barriers to healthcare. Coming together as a team helped consolidate what they knew from experience. It helped them to ask the right questions, which would make sense to their community and for the data they wanted to collect. 


It’s vital to seek support when you are small

LAWRS do not have anyone in their team who leads on data. They have found Superhighways and additional support from Trust for London particularly helpful to develop their data skills. 


Contact us

Do you need help on your data journey? If you are a small charity or community organisation in London email Superhighways

Or email LAWRS about this case study.