The limitations of ‘family’

Describing the services offered in local areas as only for families might make some people feel like they cannot use them.

The word 'family' is not specific enough to describe people who could benefit from our service. It has the potential to cause people discomfort, such as:

  • children in foster care
  • people estranged from a family unit
  • people experiencing abuse or domestic violence

User feedback

The word ‘family’ has consistently tested poorly in user research. We’ve heard from some of our users that 'family' does not describe them, so the service must not be for them.

They said:

“I would mainly change use of the word family, that’s quite a loaded word. We would always talk about parents or carers. Some people aren’t with their family, if you’re a looked after child, foster care.”

“Growing up with an alcoholic family can be isolating. People come from broken/complex families. People who have gone through domestic violence would not consider themselves part of a family, people in the care system.”

Making our content more inclusive

We mapped the different user journeys in a Lucid board to see all the places we use ‘family’ and, where appropriate, tried to replace it with more inclusive language.

Some changes were straightforward such as using ‘people’ instead, for example ‘How can people use the service?’.

However, simply replacing ‘family’ with ‘people’ did not always make sense, so we also used language from elsewhere in the service. An example: ‘Professionals working with children, young people, parents and carers can now request connections to this service’.

We also removed the word ‘family’ altogether in some places where it felt unnecessary, for example ‘They may contact you for more details’ (removing ‘...about the family’ from the end).

Another change we tried was saying ‘the people you are working with’ instead of ‘family’. We agreed that this was confusing as it could potentially refer to other professionals working with the family, child or young person. We changed it to ‘the people who need support’, for example ‘You must get permission from the people who need support to share their details’.

Where we have not changed ‘family’

The product names are still:

  • Connect families to support
  • Find support for your family
  • Manage family support services and accounts

'Family support’ remains a filter option presented to users to help them search for a local service.

We also have not changed ‘family hubs’. Family hubs is an initiative that aims to bring together networks of local resources to offer more joined up support services to families.

The term has not always tested well with users, though. They’ve said:

“’Community’ would be more inclusive for children and adults, for instance mental health services... people might need that.”

“’Family hub' can also be off-putting for young people.”

"’Family hub’ does not make sense for an unemployed person seeking help.”

We are developing a campaign site to raise awareness of the benefits of family hubs, aiming to make people feel they are somewhere they can go to get support.

Local areas also have the flexibility to brand and present their services as they choose.

Future considerations

There was enough evidence to make these changes. We have not yet had a chance to test them with users. We’ll keep monitoring the performance of these changes in future user research.