The language we use can have an impact on the stigma and exclusion that people feel and this can negatively affect people’s lives. This raises even deeper questions. Are we all to be defined and labelled by our past or events in our past?
With these questions in mind, a discussion took place recently at the Booth Centre that addressed the labeling and terminology currently in use that make people feel uncomfortable. Also discussed was terminology that people are happier with.
This is what The Booth Centre Advisory Group came up with (June 2018):
Please don’t refer to people as:
Beggars, drug addicts, alcoholics, drinkers
Someone with ‘lived experience’
Clients or service users
Instead please use the term “people”:
People who are currently homeless, people who were formally homeless, people who are living in hostels, people who are sleeping rough, people who are squatting, people who beg, people with a drug/alcohol/mental health problem.
Ideally we would refer to people based on the skills and experience that they bring to the situation eg. People with experience of volunteering, people with experience of working in the catering industry etc.
External Meetings (including Manchester Homeless Partnership meetings)
If staff are going to an external meeting with someone they should be asked beforehand how they want to introduce themselves – the favoured way is as a volunteer. People are volunteering their time, experience and skills when they attend meetings. People do not want to be introduced or referred to as people with “lived experience”. People who have now gained employment want to be introduced by their job title and without an additional label of “lived experience”.
Terminology of blame
Please don’t talk about people “not engaging” with services, as it is services responsibility to be responsive and accessible and saying that people “aren’t engaging” is putting the blame on the individual.
The Booth Centre will be adopting this use of language and terminology going forward. The Advisory Group would like this to be taken forward by the Manchester Homeless Partnership to see if something similar can be rolled out across the city.