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Carespeak – A Shout Out

July 29, 2013

A number of people have suggested following last week’s BBC blog post, that there should be a book written – a user’s guide to the language of the social care world.

Well – here goes. How about: “Carespeak – Translating the Language of Social Care”

I see a series of short chapters on the various words and phrases, that each follow the same format. There will be four sections to each chapter:

* What it (the phrase) means.
* What it really means in reality
* How it is presented to you
* How to work with it in discussion with the professionals.

I’d also like it to be the first publication under the banner of the Steven Neary Foundation.

This is where you come in. I’ve compiled the following list of social care phrases that I will include in the book. If any reader can think of anymore, please contact me either here on this blog; on Twitter at @markneary1; or by email at The more I can try and deconstruct in the book, the better.

Here is my list so far:

* Accessing the community
* Assessed/eligible needs
* Advocate
* Best Interests
* Behaviour management plans
* Befriender
* Care
* Choice
* Continuing care assessments
* Commissioned support services
* Circle of support
* Community programme
* Challenging behaviour
* Change champions
* Carers assessments
* Community transport
* Deprivation of liberty
* Direct payments
* Empowerment
* Fairer access to care services assessment
* Fairer charging policy
* Family
* Flexibility
* Hubs
* Independence
* Indicative budgets
* Inclusion
* Keyworker
* Logs
* Mental capacity
* Multi disciplinary meetings
* Normalisation
* Person centred plans
* Personalisation
* Placements
* Personal care
* Positive behaviour support
* Personal budgets
* Panel
* Putting People First
* Risk assessments
* Risk management plans
* Resource Centre
* Respite allocation
* Risk control
* Resource allocation systems
* Service user
* Self directed support
* Safeguarding
* Service provider
* Stakeholder options
* Service Review
* Specialty
* Serious Untoward incident requiring investigation
* Social capital
* Service brokerage
* Supported living
* The autistic umbrella
* Transition
* Transformation
* Transparency
* Unmet eligible needs
* Valuing People
* Welfare deputyship
* “We’ll have to take this to the Court of Protection”

So, this is a shout out for more of the same to be included in a handbook for people trying to make sense of a system that is crucial to the support they require.


Update 3/8/13

Thank you so much to all the people who have responded to my shout out. I’m currently collating a new list and will post it here as soon as i’ve done it.

In the meantime, here’s a clip from 2012 about the closure of Hillingdon’s day centres. Towards the end, you’ll hear the statement from Linda Saunders, the director of social care. It is almost beyond parody. And if anyone had any doubts that I’m over-egging this subject of deceitful jargon, this settles it:


From → Social Care

  1. Eileen Parker permalink

    Yes because what you might think a term means is entirely different when it comes to social services or Work & Pensions. I know many people who have been confused by the difference in terminology. Also having been put through the appeal process with Atos I now know the ‘proper’ terminology to apply next time the f@@@@rs try lol

  2. Befrienders

  3. Jo Curphey permalink


  4. Gill permalink

    The list could be endless and I am not sure of your boundaries, but here are a few.

    Resource Centre, Residential care, RSA, Advocate/Advocacy,
    Senior, Support Worker, Key worker, Social Worker – staff generally and their roles in our loved ones lives.
    Respite, Cognitive Impairment, Mate Crime, Stranger Danger, Learning Disability, Service Review, Adult Safeguarding Investigation, Mental Capacity Assessment, AF1 Financial Assessment, NHS Continuing Health Care Checklist

  5. And there’s the completely inappropriate use of everyday words, which people wouldn’t dream of using if they were talking to someone in a different situation.

    Problem behaviour
    Unacceptable behaviour
    Home-based days
    Needs prompting
    Forward chaining programme
    Toileting the clients
    Attention seeking behaviour

    • Gill permalink

      Oh goodness, yes!
      add ‘one to one’ to that 🙂

  6. Gill permalink

    Ahh .. I see I got RSA wrong ,, it is RAS which you already have …

  7. Nicola – Brilliant, they will probably be the two longest chapters.

    Ros – what on earth is “forward chaining programme”?

  8. How could I forget “transparency”

  9. Tristan Wood permalink

    Great list, but I can’t help thinking, what terms would be used instead. We have to have referrence to certain things/acts/rules/whatever, don’t get me wrong, there are far too many TLA’s (three letter acronyms) and terms that are downright confusing but they have to be called something …..

    • Interesting – I worked for a long time for an organisation that provided support for ‘residents’ in ‘community care setting’. They had moved from a large local institution when it shut down. I still remember vividly that in the early stages of the staff team forming, we had conversations about our use of language. We were trying to find a better phrase than ‘the residents’, which is how the organisation had referred to folk up to that point. Why it took us so long to come up with the word ‘people’ is beyond me now! It was a long road to beginning to examine the many ways we allowed our use of language to get in the way of providing good support. Most of it, in that context, was nothing to do with complicated concepts. It was about ordinary things that happened in ordinary peoples’ day to day lives, and yet we gradually became aware that we were using a whole different way of speaking, and vocabulary that would often sound ridiculous if you applied it anywhere else in your own life.

      I went on to run training sessions with many of that organisation’s staff teams, and one of the things we regularly focused on in those sessions was getting people to mind their language. I also had a notion at around that time to write a book called ‘Chocolate Cake for Breakfast’. I was so appalled by various professionals inability to see that the people we supported were individuals, and sometimes might quite legitimately make ‘unhealthy’, ‘unsafe’ or ‘unwise’ choices in their lives that for the rest of us wouldn’t even deserve a mention to anyone.

      Mark – I think your book is a fantastic idea. I’m amazed at your energy in standing up and talking/writing so clearly about what it’s really like being dealt with by ‘the system’. The book should become compulsory reading for anyone involved in any aspect of providing support to others! Language and how we use it is so powerful.

      Let me know if I can do anything to help.

  10. Tristan – my feeling is that all professions have their own language and jargon. There is nothing wrong in that of course. The point of my posts and the book is that this language is forced upon the person using the service and the person has to learn the language in order to avail themselves of the service they need. This is very unusual, I work as a counsellor and there are millions of jargon in that profession. In training and supervision, counsellors will regularly talk about the client’s “locus of evaluation” and “unconditional positive regard”. I know what they mean but I have never used them in a counselling room with a client. The post and the book seeks to decode the language for the service user and also try and look at how the language is misapproprated to hide something else. In my view, the professionals can keep on using their language but it’s not okay to expect the client to understand and use that language. So, in their multi disciplinary meetings the staff can talk about Steven “accessing the community” but when conversing with him, it would be better to be more straigh forward and say “did you go swimming today Steven”? Not understanding or being understood greatly increases an autistic person’s nxiety (like the rest of us) – keep it clear and the anxiety is reduced.

  11. simon porter permalink

    Unmet eligible needs.
    When an “assessment of needs” is done, only those needs which are not already being met (by family perhaps) are eligible for a budget payment.

  12. Nichola permalink

    Two more which I came across in my dealings with adult services:
    CRG when I asked what it meant I was told “county resources group” – that’s the funding panel to the rest of us – or in plainer speak ‘the meeting to decide how much money you will receive to pay for your care’.
    SDS assessment (self directed support assessment). This is where all sorts of people come to someone’s home and see how they are doing with their support worker. In my sister’s case it was conducted without my knowledge with an advocate, a social services care manager, a manager of the useless agency we employed and finally, an indifferent and neglectful ‘support worker’. In this case the ‘support worker’ had been tutored on how to behave. In the subsequent report by social services the support worker was praised for her aptitude in the role and her rapport with my sister.

  13. Natasha permalink

    Would you go back to your son’s schooling and describe the jargon from his education? E.g. SSG – Student Support Group, IEP – Individual Education Plan etc etc?

    • samedifference1 permalink

      Natasha- one of my friends’ mothers has written a list of education-related phrases as part of a book on his life. She calls it ‘bullshit bingo.’

      Mark, I can send you the link to the e-book if you decide to do this.

  14. Weary Mother permalink

    Weary mother

    I have never forgotten the look on my learning disabled son’s face when in hospital he was asked if his bowels had moved.

  15. Weary Mother permalink


    Means you. We can’t tell you, but we share open files and have lots and lots of meetings about you

  16. So much here is familiar – brilliant blog!

    Customer – modern word meaning your relative.
    Support worker
    Care worker
    “I will share it with…..” I will talk to the person about what you’ve said.
    People skills – Friendly

    I feel this jargon is like “Newspeak” from “1984” where all emotion is removed from the language.

    • Hi I’m not sure how to give myself a less formal title sorry about this – I think this is because I was on a different blog a while ago and registered in my full name. I prefer magtys!

  17. Sally permalink

    Don’t forget!
    Nouns turned into verbs to give a vague sense of action without anybody actually responsible.So:”Source, action ,access” (Think of one of Blair’s speeches)

    The word “support” thrown about-again with the nature and duration of the support not specified, nor the specific provider, as in :”With the support of the so and so team…”will be supported by…”

    “Have access to”, without the means by which your son will be able to make use of whatever it is specified, nor who is responsible for arranging the resources needed to make this possible !
    As in :”have access to community activities” You have access to a holiday in Rio. But without someoebody named to fund this,you ain’t going.

    Apple pie and motherhood statements which sound great but are meaningless because again they aren’t specified,can’t be measured and nobody/no team is named as responsible: “Your son requires support (there’s that word again) and independence.”

    “Would benefit from” again with nobody down as responsible for doing this, no time line and no way of measuring if it has been done.:”Your son would benefit from a broad and balanced schedule ” (And you would benefit fromthat holiday in Rio. But if there is nobody responsible for funding it you’re staying here!)

    Once you master the language it is possible to put all there into one sentence!
    “Your son is entitled to support to lead a full yet independent life, would benifit from monitoring and will be supported by the X team to access the community”

  18. How about customer? That’s one of my pet hates! Awesome blog by the way; thank you so much for sharing it and channelling your anger anxiety frustration etc into something so illuminating and funny often. Best wishes for the move and beyond

    • Yes I mentioned “customer” in my post which SS use instead of “client” or “user” now. It implies a business relationship and adds distance to SS’s relationship to your relative and removes any vestage of affection.

  19. ”we have learnt from this”

  20. Great blog, working in public services we get surrounded by this language all the time. This post is a brill reminder that we need to work differently.

    Thanks for the brill post!

  21. queenofstring permalink

    Inappropriate behaviour: Anything you or your relative does that is not in line with the particular “professional” you are dealing with that day. Changes, depending on who you are talking to. Never described in advance, only in retrospect.

    I used to be employed by helath and social services. I didnt talk like this to my clients, their carers and families. I left in the end, you cant be human and responsive and continue to work for these organizations.

  22. Ah yes, and how about the dreaded ‘Reenablement’ ? There seems to be a lot of that supposed to be happening in Lincs.

    Great blog BTW. Carry on.

    Mum of 2 auties.

  23. Here’s a doozy:


    There is supposed to be a greater focus on it here in Lincs. This is assuming the hapless client was ever able or independent in the first place. Regardless of that, give ’em some telecare, stuff ’em out in to the community to save some dosh.

    Brilliant blog BTW.

    Proactive Mum of 2 aspies.

  24. Sally permalink

    Oh-I forgot! “Issues”
    Thrown about as often as “support”. As in: “he has issues of.”..”she has issues with”…great term because it’s meaningless .And can mean a service escapes the need for action. Eg: she has “mental health issues” could mean mildly anxious-or floridly psychotic and in urgent need of help.

    Also, a very relevant one here,your disagreement with something being reframed as a lack of understanding, which explaining will sort out. For example, as a parent you have spent a meeting objecting to, say, educational provision. In the notes it will be: “Mrs Jones asked for more speech therapy but Mr Bloggs the manager explained 2 hours a year will meet her son’s needs.” Sounds like you have been set straight, silly old you.

  25. I don’t see any of the bullshit ‘therapies’ on there yet… hydrotherapy (swimming), music therapy (music!), hippotherapy (horseriding) and… ffs.. REBOUND therapy… bouncing on a trampoline!

  26. Weary Mother permalink

    I forgot ‘capacity’

  27. Liam permalink

    I love EFP, that is, Executive Functioning Performance…

  28. duncfmac permalink

    How about ” Getting it Right For Every Child” referred to as GIRFEC! The acronym is used like a word and also means we gloss over the statement which is a joke!

  29. simon porter permalink

    I thought you may be interested that Social Care Institute for excellence has just brought out a Jargon Buster – 52 of the most commonly used social care
    words and phrases and what they mean.
    It is found at

    I am sure they must have been prompted by the publicity around your blog.

    • Hi Simon. Thanks – I have seen this. In fact, they have invited me to contribute to their next edition. I’ve declined because I want to concentrate on the Carespeak book which I think will have a different emphasis to the TLAP book

  30. Will permalink

    Haha, they were shamed into issuing a Jargon Buster book… well done sir.

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