Training for Plain English
Nov 10, 2023
Community Based Support (CBS) recently held a series of plain English workshops. The goal was to encourage that written and spoken communication with clients, and with each other, is clear and understandable.
The workshops were delivered by 26TEN, a network of individuals and organisations working together to improve adult literacy and numeracy in Tasmania. CBS CEO Allyson Warrington is a member of the Coalition, whose responsibility includes providing high level direction and advocacy to support the vision for a state where all of us have the literacy and numeracy skills needed for work and life.
Around half of Tasmanian adults have difficulties with literacy so it is important to communicate with people in a way they understand. Plain English is not about dumbing language down, it’s about communicating in language that is understandable to the audience receiving it.
Through a series of examples, practical exercises, discussion and reflection on their own experiences, the CBS team came away with a renewed appreciation for considered communication.
Client Services Officer Mikayla Sutton spends most of her day communicating by telephone or written word with people trying to navigate their way through Aged Care or the NDIS. Mikayla shared, “The practical exercises we did during the session really highlighted that simple is best but isn’t always easy or natural to write. You kind of assume that plain English will come naturally but we learned that isn’t the case. I’ve really enjoyed focusing on editing for clarity and using all the handy tips I received during this workshop. I can see how it makes all this difficult information much more accessible and that people are better able to make decisions about the services.”
Recently CBS needed to communicate a complicated change to service fees resulting from government decisions. A strong focus on ensuring the key message was clear and that the language was simple had a surprising impact. Despite having prepared FAQs for staff to respond to the anticipated tide of phone calls, very few clients contacted CBS for further discussion. Their understanding and acceptance of the information was shown through the signed return of forms.
Plain English helps avoid misunderstandings and makes it easier for people to make informed decisions. In the support sector, where people are making difficult decisions about their lives and those of their loved ones, it’s vital that CBS presents information about its services in a clear and accessible way.
26Ten programs and services are free, friendly and confidential. They offer free workshops, grants to fund literacy projects and a free confidential referral process for people seeking help.