Mindful Use of Language

10 April 2018   Add comments

It is very important for us that the people we support are able to voice their opinions and are heard. Within CMG we have a group of self advocates called ‘Campaigning for Change’; they are a group of people we support from different parts of the country who represent the people we support. They campaign for various topics that are important to them and for people with learning disabilities in general. Currently CFC has 7 members: Mary from Greenwich, David from Greenwich, Stevie from Brighton, Leon from Sutton, Alex from Blackwood, Mark and Christopher from Watford. The CFC members have given us permission to use their names.

CFC (Campaign for Change) are currently involved in various campaigns including improving the environment in the local area, raising awareness against hate crime towards people with disabilities, promoting no early bedtimes and healthy relationships.

A new campaign CFC (Campaign for Change) are getting behind and we are promoting at CMG is #MindYourLanguage. This is a campaign to raise awareness of how people receiving support are spoken to and addressed. It is important to understand that there are some widely used words and phrases that can give offence, as they reinforce prejudice and perpetuate discriminatory attitudes and practices among the general public.

Some staff and health care professionals can occasionally use certain words and phrases to label, and refer to people they support which can feel demeaning. Staff may use this language without a harmful intent, more often it is through habit or from brevity. In some cases, people are described by their diagnosis and challenges rather than their personality. This denies the individual their value, their worth and their individuality.

Language is the way we communicate with people, it is a powerful tool and if used positively, has the ability to lift people up, to inspire, and support.  With #mindyourlanguage, our aim is to prompt staff to be mindful of language and to encourage them to use it in a way that empowers and strengthens the people we support.

Mary ‘Campagining for Change” member said “When staff use the term ‘Service User’ it sounds a bit like we’re children or students at school,”.

CFC has told us they don’t very much like the word ‘Service User’. If I’m honest, though I’ve used it for years, I’ve never been particularly keen either. A few other organisations that support people with learning disabilities have moved away from this term and in CMG we are intending to do the same. Instead of referring to people as ‘Service Users’, we are now going to refer to people either simply as ‘People’ or ‘People we Support’. This will take a bit of time and I am sure I along with other people will fall back into old habits. If I do, please remind me. I’ll be grateful if we could all try and start referring to people in the way I’ve described as they find it more respectful than the term ‘Service User’. It will take some time for this change to embed and it will also take time for our policy and training documents to catch up with this.

I really would appreciate your feedback on this: please contact me via Peter.Kinsey@cmg.co.uk

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