The language we use in health and social care can make all the difference in the work that we do. Families, children and professionals all interpret the language that we use and think about potential meanings or intent. Sometimes even the simplest conversation can be misinterpreted.

Because of the work that we do it is important that we use clear accessible language that is adapted to the needs and level of understanding of the person to that we are talking.

The Family Solutions Group are a group of professionals who have undertaken some work in this area and released a groundbreaking paper that better helps us to understand these issues and how we can work to overcome them.

The report has distilled feedback from a range of consultees and existing literature into five core principles for language change, to shift mindsets away from adversity and battles, toward safety, well-being, and child welfare. The core principles or five ‘P’s are:

  • Plain English – avoid legal jargon and use words that can easily be understood.
  • Personal – use family names rather than legal labels.
  • Proportionate – use language which is proportionate to the family issues being considered.
  • Problem-solving – use constructive problem-solving language rather than battle language.  The move from combative to cooperative language reflects a move from the language of parental rights to the language of parental responsibility, so issues can be approached in a child-focussed and problem-solving way
  • Positive futures – the emphasis is not on past recriminations but on building positive futures in which children can thrive.

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