Life Without Labels

(The following guidelines are currently in circulation. They are not intended as a list of ‘language rules’. Rather something to promote conversations within organisations and encourage awareness about how certain language and ‘labeling’ can affect the way people feel)

Suggested Terms of Reference & Language

The language we use to reference people can have a positive or negative impact on the way people feel. Open discussions have taken place concerning labeling and terminology that people are presently uncomfortable with and terms that people are more comfortable with. An involvement from all services is needed to make sure that organisations across GM promote the use of plain, jargon-free and respectful language when referring to the people they work with.

Please avoid these terms:

Drug addicts
Rough sleepers
Lived experience
Clients or service users
The homeless

Instead please consider these terms, (key word – ‘people’):

People who are begging
People with substance misuse issues/problems
People with health issues/problems
People who are sleeping rough
People with a personal insight into homelessness
People who are squatting
People who working with the service(s)
People who are or who have been homeless

At External Meetings (including Manchester Homelessness Partnership Meetings)
People should be referred to by name and if applicable, their position. If people are volunteering their time, experience and skills, this should be acknowledged. People do not want to be referred to or introduced as someone with ‘lived experience’. People who are working want to be introduced by their job title without an additional label.

The Terminology of Blame
People are often referred to as “not engaging” with services when it is actually the services’ responsibility to be responsive and accessible. Saying that people “aren’t engaging” is shifting the blame onto the individual, rather than recognising service limitations.

It is hoped that these terms of reference, or something similar, will be taken forward by the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, the Greater Manchester Homeless Action Network and The Mayor’s Office.

With thanks and acknowledgements to the Booth Centre Advisory Group and to Paul Marshall, Strategic Director of Children and Education Services MCC