Transform Your Language!

Is it really too much trouble just to say or write the words?

Author: Mark Humble

Is it really too much trouble just to say or write the words?

Pick up any health or social care plan written in the last five years and I guarantee that it includes the words “Transformation” and “Personalisation” very often these words are even in the title of the plan. 

Cards on the table I think transformational change starts with the language we use because the language we use reflects how we think about people. 

After more than 30 years working in services that purport to support people with a learning disability I have seen very little real transformation. A useful analogy is to think about chocolate bars, the system thinks that the change from a Marathon to a Snickers is transformation, however all that really changed was its name and it became smaller and cost more. 

I always think that real transformation needs to look like a pupa to a caterpillar to a butterfly, the start looks nothing like the end result.

A lot of current system thinking is looking to the drive to personalisation as a way to transform the way people experience their lives and the support they receive and yet the language of the system is increasingly used to actively depersonalise people. 

Can we get any less person-centred than referring to someone as a set of initials? 

And yet the system does it all the time, and we start when people are young CYP, SEN, SEND all terms that are used on a daily basis within a system that says it’s focus is “with the child at the centre” and “person centred” and to top it off we can then add a further label such as LD, MH, ASC, ADHD, PD, language that actively depersonalises even further.

One of the main risks to any group is once they are depersonalised or seen as less than human bad things can happen, just look at the events at Whorlton Hall and Winterbourne View.

A few years ago I worked with some brilliant self advocates in Darlington, who said to me: 

“Why would we trust you to make decisions about our lives when you can’t even change the words you use to describe us.” 

If we really want to think about transforming the current health and social care system into one which is driven by people and families we should start with changing the language we use to describe people, simply moving away from using terms like CYP, LDA, LD, and MH which clearly depersonalise, would be a great start and would show that the system is capable of transforming or at least changing.

The publisher is Citizen Network Research. Transform Your Language! © Mark Humble 2023.

Article | 15.05.23

Inclusion, intellectual disabilities, social care, England, Article

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