Service efficiency
Feb 8, 2024

How to improve communication with service users

Mark Topps shares 5 tips to help social care teams improve communication with their service users, and the different types of circumstances to consider.

Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager

Table of contents

I have said many times that communication is key as it underpins everything that we do within social care. This can be from understanding someone’s needs and conveying compassion, to reducing anxieties and concerns to ensure the best possible care.  

I have previously written about effective communication for care teams in general, as well as how to deal with tricky service users. In this week’s blog post, I thought I would dive into how we can improve the way we communicate with service users specifically.  

1. Implement staff training  

Before we even begin to start improving how we communicate, we need to ensure that we – and our teams – are upskilled.  

Training your staff in communication will help improve these skills within the care workforce and allow them to learn about effective communication techniques and exercises that can be incorporated into their working roles.

Reflecting on training I’ve had previously, the two key takeaways were the following:

  • Communication should be simple, avoiding long-winded language or jargon.
  • It's important to adjust to those who speak other languages, are from other cultures or have additional communication needs.  

Having resources on hand can also help you meet the new Single Assessment Framework.  

2. Practice active listening

Communication with service users isn’t just about talking.  

Listening plays an important part in effective communication. For many people, especially those who are hard of hearing, they will rely on your lips to read your words.  

Here are my top 5 tips on effective active listening:

  1. Give them your undivided attention and make the time to talk. Do not get distracted with what is around you.
  1. Face the person, maintain eye contact and ensure they can see your mouth and face.  
  1. Confirm what you have hard by repeating back a summary.
  1. Ask open ended questions to get a more detailed response and to promote a deeper connection and understanding.  
  1. Show a genuine interest in what they are saying, even if it's not one of your favourite topics of conversation.

3. Consider non-verbal communication

95% of all communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication can come from a mix of interactions, including:

  • Facial expressions, i.e. smiles indicating happiness and frowns conveying questioning.  
  • Eye contact, which can aid the sense of connection and engagement.
  • Gestures, which includes hand movements.  
  • Posture, which – depending on how you sit or stand – can help improve communication. Upright and openly facing the other person communicates positive receptiveness, whereas sitting with your arms crossed or your body slightly turned away can show disinterest, defensiveness or boredom.  
  • Touch, which provides so much reassurance to someone, especially to those who are not able to express their emotions or communicate.  

4. Think about the individual

Much like the importance of person-centred care, person-centred communication is no different. You need to establish how the person you are supporting prefers to communicate.  

To help you get going, hare my top 5 key tips to ensuring individualised communication:

  1. Get to know the person and their history, as this can help you gather valuable insights into their preferences and help establish meaningful conversations.
  1. Recognise and respect cultural differences.
  1. Involve service users in decisions related to their care whenever possible. This may include choices about daily routines, meals or activities.
  1. Respect privacy and choices.
  1. Ensure the care plan is regularly reviewed and updated.  

Communication challenges may arise due to factors like impaired hearing, poor eyesight or speech disorders such as aphasia (the inability to speak), preventing effective communication.  

It is crucial to assess and explore alternative communication methods such as visual aids like photographs, sign language, and PECS.

5. Advocate for person-centred care planning

In my top five above, I touched on ensuring care plans are up to date, and it is so important to involve the service user in this process.  

Through effective communication, your team will build trusting relationships and rapport with the service users. This trusting relationship will result in honest lines of communication and people expressing their thoughts, concerns or wishes. These should be captured and documented.

For many of our teams, they will be supporting people living with a learning disability, where verbal communication may not be their preferred method. Your team will recognise people’s unique preferences and begin to understand verbal and non-verbal cues. It is so important to capture those small moments as this will ensure continuity of care and best practice for that individual.  

To support people in their care planning, it is important to provide communication in a clear and transparent way. Often in the world of health and social care, there can be lots of jargon and medical explanations. This can confuse service users and often leads to a breakdown in their needs being met.  


I feel like I am just scraping the surface of this conversation, but conscious of how much reading and information this is.  

I really hope this is an article you can share with your team to enhance their skills and create awareness of the different ways you can learn to communicate, and better support your service users.  

Found this information useful?    

Subscribe to The Handover newsletter by Sam Hussain, CEO of Log my Care, for valuable social care insights and resources.

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