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The importance of appropriate language in safeguarding

By recognising the impact of language on individuals and the overall culture, we can take proactive steps to ensure that communication aligns with safeguarding principles.

The use of appropriate language plays a crucial role in creating a safe and inclusive environment. Fostering a culture of respect, understanding and openness empowers people who use services and professionals to work together to ensure the wellbeing, safety, and protection of individuals who are at risk of abuse or neglect. 

Professionals should ensure they use appropriate language to:

  • Ensure clarity and understanding: Using clear and unambiguous language helps convey information effectively. It ensures everyone understands the roles, duties and expectations of everyone involved. It also ensures you do not disadvantage anyone who is not familiar with the safeguarding policies, procedures and terminology.
  • Empower adults at risk and others: Appropriate language empowers individuals to speak up about concerns or incidents of abuse. Creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment is essential for early intervention and prevention of harm.
  • Promote respect and trust: Language reflects our attitudes and values. When language is used thoughtfully and respectfully, it helps build trust between individuals, organizations, and the community. This trust is crucial for effective collaboration in safeguarding efforts. Using respectful and inclusive language is particularly important when working with diverse populations as it acknowledges and values individual differences.
  • Avoid discriminating: Inappropriate language can perpetuate stereotypes and stigmatise individuals and community groups. This can hinder the reporting of abuse or neglect and create barriers to seeking help. When victim-blaming language is used amongst professionals, there is a risk of normalising and minimising the experience of abuse or neglect that can result in a lack of appropriate response.

Victim blaming language can reinforce messages from those engaging in abusive behaviours around shame and guilt. As we continue to understand more about trauma and strive towards trauma-informed  approach, we need to constantly reflect on the impact and importance of language. Language implying that a person is responsible for the situation that has happened or may happen to them, must be avoided.

We encourage all to give and receive constructive challenge when inappropriate language may be inadvertently used to improve and embed reflective learning and practices.

You might want to consider using this content as an appropriate statement guide within your meetings.

 Examples of appropriate language good practice can be found here


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