Having qualified as a Social Worker back in 2010 I realised why I needed to have GSCE English before starting on my career. I do not pride myself in my use of English Grammar, infact I am pretty useless. What is the difference between a colon and a semi-colon after all?? And infact my spelling isn’t great either, thank GOD for spell check. But what I did have to learn and learn quickly was the importance of the use of Acronyms.
For your benefit I have defined an Acronym here: “an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word” – Oxford Dictionary 2015.
Now if qualifying as a Social Worker wasn’t hard enough I then needed to become a mind reader… after all, what is a “CiN or CHIN” … isn’t “WASP” a creature..and “MASH” – potato??
Since working for Wiltshire in 2013 I have been impressed and overwhelmed with the amount of acronyms I have come across. It takes a great deal of thought to create a good acronym, something catchy but meaningful and I believe Wiltshire has got this down pretty well, however; as a professional it’s easy for me to ask “excuse me, what does that mean”? Do we think that our Service Users or the general public feel the same? I am not so sure…
Just within Children’s Services I have come across several acronyms which mean something to me as a professional and I can now say “oh yes that means…..” from Service Area’s to Job Titles, everyone has an acronym. My own team “Family Intervention Service” is commonly referred to as “FIS or FIT”, but my question is should acronyms be part of our daily vocabulary? They say teenagers speak their own language, well so do Social Workers…
“The other day I made a referral to the MASH, they said it didn’t meet the criteria for a CiN plan and that I should use a CAF to apply to CAMHs for some support. I was told that there would be a TAC meeting and that a possible referral to MARAC may need to happen. They mentioned something about CSE and speaking to CEOP. If I need support at the weekend to call EDS, but they might have to speak to the LADO and contact WSCB for advice”.
Within my statement I have managed to fit in 10 different acronyms. I won’t boar you with all the definitions (but have included a link at the bottom where you can find a Wiltshire Children’s Services Acronyms Quiz). I am not against the use of acronyms, infact I find them interesting and time saving however it’s so important for us to remember that not EVERYONE will understand what we mean.
I have seen some fantastic Social Workers here at Wiltshire Council who go above and beyond to ensure that our children, young people and families understand what we are going on about and often believe we need to create a Jargon Buster which all children and families should get a copy of, but how do we ensure individuals with a learning need can fathom our professional language?
The key: Good, open communication. Wiltshire loves a good acronym and why shouldn’t we? But we must ensure that EVERYONE can understand what we are saying. When I was case working with young people I used to ask them to “imagine that an alien, who speaks NO human language has just landed in your back garden, how will they know that you are angry/upset/scared?” This used to help them think about how they communicated with others…perhaps from time to time we all need to imagine how we would speak to an alien…
TTFN (my last acronym I promise!)
Aimi Jones, Practice Lead