Making Family Hubs’ language more accessible

When people work closely together, they often develop a type of shorthand – a way of communicating shared knowledge with the fewest words or letters. Language can sometimes become so familiar that a group isn’t even aware they are using specialist terms. It’s only when someone asks ‘Could you explain what a CoP is?’ that these barriers to accessibility become clear. 

People new to a group may need to learn specialised language quickly to do their job effectively. For example, Health Education England may be familiar to you as HEE. However, acronyms like this are difficult to understand if you are unfamiliar with the area of interest, or new to English.  

Other shared words might be abbreviated, such as Dept. for department, but this is more common in writing than in speaking. Groups may also use words which hold a common meaning: for example, the word ‘field’ is used in academia to refer to an area of shared interest, but may be more commonly understood to mean an outdoor field. Internet slang can be even more complex, changing rapidly and employing a mix of abbreviations and specialised terms. 

Group members should recognise that their terminology may not be widely known, and should consider using simpler language. They should also explain specialist vocabulary that may be new to people. Glossaries can help with this, but it is not always easy to familiarise oneself with new vocabulary out of context. It can be like learning a language before you go on holiday abroad, only to find you can’t remember any of it when you get there. 

Common terms 

In our regional team meeting at the National Centre for Family Hubs (NCFH) we realised we were using terms that were not always accessible to others. This section provides information and context about terms we use. It will also form part of our glossary of terms and abbreviations. 

Regional Implementation Advisers (RIA) work locally and nationally. They assist those working in Family Hubs and Start for Life and connect them to others with similar needs or information across the country.  

Community of Practice (cop or CoP) meetings are when we gather groups together with a shared interest in family hub development. Participating groups will also have at least one other reason for gathering: for example, a regional community of practice might gather to discuss their family hub youth offer.  

CoPs are available in all regions, but there are also national CoPs which share developments and ideas relating to a single issue, such as Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) or rural settings. CoPs can be large or small and meetings can be held online or in person. There may be a presentation to prompt thinking and discussion, but the main content of the meeting comes from attendees. 

Share and Learn sessions are a way for those working in Family Hubs to deliver a message or information to others through a presentation or group of presentations. There are opportunities for questions, but the emphasis is on learning from others. London boroughs have run successful Share and Learn sessions, but other sessions, such as those delivered from the Growing Up Well team, are open to all Family Hubs. 

Webinars are similar to Share and Learn sessions, but are open nationally and focus on a single issue. It may be possible to ask questions in some webinars, but attendees are there to listen and learn rather than participate actively. 

Huddles are smaller groups of people who meet regularly because of an additional connection, so that a familiarity has developed (or can develop) between them. For example, a Huddle might include a group of family hub practitioners from neighbouring local authorities. Meetings can be online or in person and are slightly more informal than CoP meetings. There is scope to share practice and challenges, as well as problem solve and offer peer support. 

Action Learning Sets are when a group of people with a shared interest meet over an extended period to evolve an idea or solve a problem around a single focus. The National Centre for Family Hubs team can support and facilitate this way of working. 

We hope this explainer is helpful. Let us know there are terms we haven’t made clear enough, or terms that you use that you would like our help to communicate more widely.

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