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Why does language matter?

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You might have noticed when reading about safeguarding or chatting with colleagues that there are lots of terms which can seem confused or overlapping. Safeguarding terminology has evolved over time. Some safeguarding language is outdated but still used by some people. Other language is used for slightly different things in different settings. It is hard to find a clear and current glossary of terms

You will want to move to the most up to date language but also know what other people mean when they use older terms, or terms that are specific to their context.

We all need to get language right for a number of reasons.

  • We want to make it clear that safeguarding encompasses all individuals and step away from old beliefs that it only covers children.
  • We want to make sure that when we are having a discussion we’re all considering the same thing.
  • We want to make sure we never use victim-blaming language which implies that a child, young person or adult at risk may be at fault.
  • We only want to use legal terms when we need to for legal reasons.
  • To check the current meaning of a term, use our browsable glossary of safeguarding terms.
  • To see more examples of how language can cause problems, or be used to avoid problems, use the Children's Society's language toolkit.

Last reviewed: 06 December 2018

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 December 2018

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