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What should you call a social care ‘service user’?

Dictionary.jpgI’m reading a report where interviewees use a number of terms to describe people who use mental health services. They include ‘patient’, ‘client’, ‘service user’ and ‘survivor’ among others.

It reminded me of a discussion that cropped up at Community Care Live on whether there was a better term than ‘service user’ to describe people who have used services? 

I’ve described myself as a mental health service user in the past and don’t have a problem with it whereas I hate the term ‘customer’. But I recognise that other people, whether professionals or people who use services, might detest the label ’service user’.

At CC Live some people thought the term ‘client’ was an improvement. However, I remember one delegate saying they felt it conveyed images of a ‘dodgy massage parlour’.

So below is a quick poll to gauge your thoughts. It’s unlikely that there’s a ’one size first all’ answer. But when push comes to shove what term would you rather see used? 

Image: JoelK75 (Flickr)

About Andy McNicoll

Andy is community editor at Community Care, with a focus on reporting on mental health. He has previously worked for titles focusing on the NHS and substance misuse sectors. You can contact him at

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