The Language we use……


I was at a very interesting event today where we spent time looking at the proposed language to be used in some documents. Interesting insofar that the nuances of the English language are multifarious and abstruse. As is that last sentence as if to hammer home a point.

What was clear as mud is that language is very personal, it can divide and unite, it can inform and confuse and it can be a barrier to some a gateway for others.

In the social care field there is no set agreement on what to call those whom we work for, our service users, our clients, our residents, our customers or something entirely different. In the Adoption community there is a battle fought around what to label those who place their children for adoption and the adopted, what you call the women who gives birth to the child, the birthmother, the natural mother, the mother, the first mother.

I have seen these debates descend into bile throwing hurt fests online all because of words.

There is a need to use the simplest of language so that the greatest number of people find documents accessible. That been a given, how do we meld the language we use in daily discourse with the language we write for policy or is there a need to do that at all.

In social care when we say for example that our practice is based on an individuals need, that to us is simple enough, the problem lies in what sort of meaning can be construed from this if it is in a public document.

We must always be open to the challenge of wordiness, language , reportage, labelling, policy documents and human interactions as these are all very differing dialogues. We need to be sensitive to all these language pathways and to have the ability to challenge ourselves to allow understanding from all facets of society.

What is your meaning in what you are saying? If you’re being asked that question then maybe you have already failed…..

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

“Seeing the Beauty”


The start of this year was a very difficult time for me, I ended up allowing myself to become very stressed. I didn’t recognise it then and I have spent months thinking about it and how to learn something from that time.

What is clear to me now is that when you are under stress it is difficult to see the beauty.

That in itself is not earth shattering, nor is it the statement of the century, but for those of us who work in Social Care it is really worth reflecting on.

In recent times I have consciously taken the time to try and look for the beauty, this can be challenging especially when we are surrounded with a culture of negativity. When you are working with individuals who are marginalised by society it is easy to see those individuals as a series of diagnosis, ailments, addictions and traits. It is much harder to see the individual as just that an individual, one who may be living with a diagnosis, ailment, addiction or trait but an individual nonetheless.

When you stop to listen to what we say and how we say it, when you stop and challenge yourself to stand firm in defence of, when you stop another individuals diatribe and infuse the conversation with challenge, then and only then can we start to see the beauty again.

Separating the human from the behaviour is a start, engaging  with their story and allowing time for relationships to build is what can make my working world so satisfying.

Those that we work for, our clients, residents, and those that we work with, our colleagues deserve at the least the chance to relate. For it is in the relationship that the real change takes place.

My challenge is to never allow stress subsume my want, need and desire to relate for it is in the relationship that I find joy.