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March 24, 2010

Welsh Institue of Health and Social Care Blog
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» What’s in a name?

Everyday we find ourselves assigned to any number of different labels; ‘the middle class’, ‘the unemployed’, ‘the young’ or ‘the disabled’ but what are the consequences? What’s in a name? Years of experience researching the lives of homeless people, disabled people, and young people, amongst other so-called vulnerable groups, has led me to question the possible implications of assigning labels to groups of individuals. In particular, my experiences of working with young people would suggest it is quite possible that assigning labels such as ‘homeless’, ‘offender’, or ‘care leaver’ may well have serious impacts. My point is best illustrated through a brief illustration. Dan is a 17 year-old young man who is forced to leave the family home following a row with his mother. He spends a week sleeping on friends’ sofas but soon finds his way to the local council office to ask for help, there he is directed to homelessness services. Dan is then interviewed and at that point he is officially labelled as homeless. Assuming Dan is a priority for homelessness support (the complexities and deficiencies of the homeless system would require at least a separate blog) he will now enter the homeless system. As a homeless young person his housing needs will be prioritised, which might mean returning to the family home or he may find himself in some form of temporary housing. This is a very simplistic account of a small part of one young man’s story but it highlights a common pattern – being labelled as ‘homeless’ sets an individual on a pathway that focuses on housing needs. What happens if Dan enters the system in some other way?

Imagine that Dan was caught fighting in the street the night before the argument with his mother. In this instance he would probably have found himself at the door of the youth offending team. Here he is labelled a young offender and the focus of support will be on his behaviour, perhaps through some form of education programme. The system is again far more complex than I suggest here but the poignant fact is that the support given to the same individual would be quite different to the support that would have been provided just a day later. So, what’s in a name? The labels we allocate, often based on the point at which someone accesses a service, can have significant implications for the type of support they receive and yet they are the same individual with the same underlying needs. There seems to be a very clear need to weaken the boundaries between support services and to end the allocation of divisive labels in order to make sure that all the needs of individuals are addressed. Moreover, a label-free society would surely be an equal one.

Written by Dr Pete Mackie, WIHSC Associate

March 31, 2009

Chaplaincy Blog
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» Three Interesting Things to Know about ....

1. The Modern Churchpeople’s Union (MCU) organises an annual residential conference and they are offering free places to students who would be prepared to help at the conference. The conference takes place from Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th July at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Herts, UK. The title of the conference is Liberal Faith Today and Tomorrow.

For an opportunity to join in with this please contact us, by phoning 01443 654060 or click here to email

2. Pontypridd Christians Together are holding an event called Action for Homeless People on Thursday 5th March at 7:15 p.m. at St.David’s Uniting Church on GelliwastadPontypridd. The event offers an opportunity to hear more about some of the issues surrounding the problem of homelessness and to share examples of the good work and success stories in Rhondda-Cynon-Taff.

Speakers include people involved in a variety of initiatives aimed at providing support to homeless people in the area and there will be an opportunity to chat informally to individuals with first-hand experience of working with these groups.

3. The Fellowship of Reconciliation www.for.org.uk/tw2009 are holding a conference between 3-5 July called Nonviolence : A (Practical) tool for Change. The weekend is aimed at 18-30(ish) year-olds who are interested, active and/or engaged in peace and conflict issues and who want to explore nonviolence and its uses. It offers the opportunity for those new to the subject, or old-time campaigners, to learn new skills, practise applying them, and discuss nonviolence as a tool for social change.

The weekend is being held at the Guy Chester Centre in North London. There are a limited number of travel bursaries and subsidised places available. If booked before 1 June the cost is £45, after this it increases to £55. For more information, phone 01865 250781 0r click here to email

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