National Safeguarding Adults Week

We are pleased to support National Safeguarding Adults Week.   The focus is on Creating Safer Cultures by minimising the risk of harm occurring, whilst at the same time ensuring policies and procedures are in place so that if any concerns raised, they are dealt with appropriately and effectively.

At ACM we have a Safeguarding Team, and provide mandatory Safeguarding training regularly to all staff, including our Support Workers.   We also operate in a no-blame culture, have a Speaking Up policy, and offer Duty and On-call Case Managers.

The week has highlighted to us the importance of language, and Jo Mills, one of our Case Managers has written the following article on how empowering language should be.

The Power of Language – Why Words Matter

This year National Safeguarding Adults week takes place from 15-21 November. It offers all of us, organisations, and individuals that opportunity to come together to raise awareness of safeguarding, highlight key issues and think about best practice so we can take steps to minimise harm occurring. This year the focus is on the theme of ‘Creating Safer Cultures’ which includes encouraging organisations and individuals to think about the power of language in safeguarding practice.  

At ACM we are passionate about supporting the people we care for to lead the life they want to. Through verbal and written communication, language is embedded within our daily work with our clients. Yet our language is not neutral. Through our use of language, whether consciously or unconsciously we can exacerbate existing inequalities. It is important that we take the time to reflect on the language we use and the impact this might have on those around us.

When we choose respectful language that focuses on people’s unique abilities rather than their disabilities, we are emphasising the person first rather than their illness, injury or disability. There are some easy ways we can do this. Everyone is different and it is important we ask clients how they would like to be referred to and described. For example, research by the National Autistic Society and Mind found that some people preferred the use of identity first language (i.e. being referred to as an autistic person), while others preferred the term ‘a person with autism’ as they felt autism made up only one part of their identity. The charity Scope also have developed suggestions for appropriate language we can use. For example, encouraging people to use terms such wheelchair user as opposed to describing someone as wheelchair bound.

When report writing, or writing clinical notes, we can use empowering and person-centred language, i.e. assist to eat and drink rather than saying ‘feeding’ or, assisting to shower and dress rather than ‘showering and dressing’.  Subtle changes which change the power imbalance from being a passive recipient of care to someone who is actively involved.

Another practical way that we can de-stigmatise language is to make our writing more descriptive. Instead of commonly used language such as ‘challenging behaviour’ or ‘acting out’ we can, for example, say someone appears upset, frustrated or restless. By being as specific as possible and giving examples our language becomes more empowering and respectful. By choosing language that focuses on people’s abilities rather than disabilities and avoiding the use of jargon which can be confusing and leave people feeling excluded we can be more inclusive.

Taking the time to reflect on the language we use is important because the words we choose can enable us to build more positive person-centred practice.