Sirpa Suhonen

Terminology and classification work for social welfare

A lot of work is done in the field of social welfare to help the social welfare professionals and users of social services to handle and find information. For example, a classification of services in social welfare and health care is being made for Palveluvaaka web service. It is not easy to reconcile the views of service providers and service users in a large classification since there is no simple pattern that would guarantee a successful solution.

There have also been terminology projects the results of which are meant mainly for the professionals in social welfare to support the use of information systems. The Vocabulary of Social Welfare Client Documents and the Vocabulary of Economic Classifications in Social Welfare are linked to classifications.

Karin Dellby – versatile language professional

Karin Dellby has been the managing director for the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC since February 2014.

Even though Dellby has worked with language for the whole of her career, she first became interested in languages after leaving school, when she attended a course in German at the Austro-American Institute in Vienna. She had no previous knowledge of German but was a fast learner and, encouraged by her teacher, decided to continue studying German at the University of Stockholm. Later she continued her studies at the language consultancy program, where students study a wide range of courses both in Swedish and in linguistics. Dellby found the program to be a perfect match for someone like her, who was equally interested in language and society.

While still at university, Dellby worked in subtitling at the Swedish public television company SVT. Having worked a brief period as a technical writer and translator she returned to work as a project manager in subtitling in SVT after graduating, and eventually became the head of the subtitling department. From mid-nineties she worked as a project manager responsible for introduction of an office suite at SVT and training the employees on the software.

It was while working at Scania, a major Swedish automotive industry manufacturer of commercial vehicles, when Dellby really became acquintd with terminology and its profits for a certain field. At Scania terminology work is an essential part of the company’s operation. In 2010 Dellby became the head of Scania’s Language and Publishing Department. The language department supports Scania’s service information and works with both single terms and longer texts, co-ordinates multilingual translations and publishes material provided by other departments. Even though Dellby at times had to stand up for the importance of investing in her department, she enjoyed working with language and information in such a multifaceted environment.

During Dellby’s time at Scania TNC had consulted Scania on terminology work, and together with TNC and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), Scania had founded a network for professional terminologists which enables the terminologists to share their knowledge and experiences. Thus Dellby knew TNC quite well when she decided to accept the role of TNC’s managing director, which she herself says is challenging, educational and bewildering – albeit all in a good way.

As TNC’s managing director Dellby intends to further strengthen TNC’s position in the Swedish society and to continue TNC’s work for the use of good special language and clear administrative language society-wide. She mentions three important prerequisites for reaching these goals: TNC’s competent and experienced personnel; making TNC’s knowledge even more available to the public than before; and co-operation with companies and organizations who operate in fields close to terminology.

Vocabulary of gerontechnology clears term jungle

The KÄKÄTE Project (User Centered Technology for Elderly People and Care Givers) is a five-year project run by VALLI – The Union for Senior Services and the Central Union for the Welfare of the Aged. The work started in 2010 and it is funded by RAY (Finland’s Slot Machine Association). The main focus of the project is to improve the possibilities of living longer at home and to facilitate the work of professionals and family caregivers by means of technology.

Some term problems were met already in the beginning of the KÄKÄTE Project. Since the field of gerontechnology is quite young, the terminology in the field has yet not been established and the use of terms is diverse. The field will grow in the coming years, and as the population grows old, there is a great need for technical solutions that facilitate everyday life. The objective is that the elderly may live in their homes safely as long as possible. So the time was right to create a vocabulary of gerontechnology. The terminology work with the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK started in 2012.

The target group of the vocabulary is large, because the vocabulary is meant for all who need information on gerontechnology, e.g. the elderly and their relatives, old-age care professionals, developers, sellers and researchers of technology. It is hoped that the vocabulary will help people to work in the field and to produce information.

The vocabulary of gerontechnology includes about 100 concepts. Terms, definitions and notes are in Finnish. The subject fields covered include e.g. devices and services of safety technology, and aids for remembering, moving, hearing and seeing. The vocabulary contains some devices and services that are also meant for others than the elderly, such as smoke alarms. Although these are not actual gerontechnology, they can be useful specially for the elderly.

The vocabulary was compiled by a terminology work group consisted of a terminologist and experts of gerontechnology. The vocabulary was on a comments round in the beginning of this year. Comments were also asked from the elderly, not just experts. More than 300 comments on concepts were given, which is quite a lot for such a small vocabulary. This shows that the terminology of gerontechnology arouses interest and that there is a need for it.

The vocabulary of gerontechnology will soon be ready, and it will be published in the publication series of the KÄKÄTE Project and as a web version and in the Terminology Centre's TEPA term bank.

Terms of the month – place of publication for current administrative terms

The Government Terminology Service of the Prime Minister's Office publishes glossaries, instructions, term recommendations and translation memories on its web site ( There are e.g. an up-to-date multilingual list of Finnish state agencies and institutions and useful phrases for English letters and speeches.

A PDF terminology compilation called Kuukauden termit, terms of the month, is also published on the site. It gives recommendations on current terms that have come up in translation work for the state administration. The terms are linked to the work of the Government in the administrative branches of different ministries. Finnish terms are usually given equivalents in Swedish and English, sometimes in other languages too, like Russian. There are more than 200 concepts in the PDF file, and they have been collected in 2012–2014.

The terms of the month publication is a channel to inform about current administrative terms and to ensure that also others than the ministries' own translators would use the same, agreed equivalents for certain terms. For example, it is recommended that the Saami language is written with two A letters in English to ensure that it is pronounced with a long A vowel.

The Finnish Government Termbank Valter would have been an excellent place for new terms, but the termbank publication system is not flexible enough for small additions and updates. Only whole glossaries at a time can be imported into Valter.

When the terms of the month are compiled, it not usually customary to go through whole subject fields, make large term inventories or analyse whole concept systems, but sometimes the clarification of a single term creates a cluster of concepts. For example, sanctions have been major news this year. The Terminology Service started to study sanction terms in late spring, and during summer the list of terms grew into a glossary of 16 concepts with a concept diagram published in the terms of the month.

The translators of the ministries produce lots of translations of the administration all the time, and important terms come up often. Such terms are often selected into the terms of the month for which it has been difficult to find Swedish or English equivalents and when it has taken a long time to find them. It is wished that the terms will be found again easily. Also new terms that do not yet have equivalents may end up in the list, so that in future the agreed equivalents are known. Especially if a term may be used outside one's own administrative branch, it is good to inform others about it.

The idea for an addition to the terms of the month comes most often from news, administrative reforms and new statutes. Current terms or their equivalents may also be changed when time goes by or concepts get more precise. If the Terminology Service receives information on this, the list is updated.

At the moment the Terminology Service is planning to add the terms of the month into Valter. First, the time resistant terms must be chosen, and e.g. the names of short-run projects must be left out. The aim is to input also other material in Valter, e.g. the Legislation Glossary. This will help users to find more term information with one search.

Developing service classification for social and health sector

An electronic service directory collecting the information of social and health service producers is implemented as a part of the Action Programme on eServices and eDemocracy (SADe programme). The service directory will go live in 2015 in Palveluvaaka web service. After that Finns can search information on social and health service producers and services and to compare and evaluate services on the Internet. Palveluvaaka will promote the freedom of citizens to choose their place of care.

Service providers may log in the maintenance user interface in Palveluvaaka web service and administer their information and make sure it is up-to-date. The service providers inform e.g. about their services, contact information and opening hours through the interface. A coherent and as comprehensive as possible national service classification for the social and health sector is needed so that service providers could define their service supply and that citizens could find suitable services for themselves in Palveluvaaka.

Since there is no existing service classification for the social and health sector, it was agreed that a classification will be made during the service directory project. The service classification of the health care sector 2008 and the Vocabulary of Social Services Classification have been used as the basis in the classification work. These two classifications were combined when applicable and supplemented with missing services and definitions, e.g. with non-statutory social services. The aim of the classification work has been to join the services of social welfare and health care into one classification for the usage needs of the service directory.

When the classification work was started, the aim was not to make big structural changes in the existing classifications, but such changes were needed to ease and simplify the use of the service classification. For example, large main classes were divided into smaller parts to make it easier for citizens to find those services they need. Search visibility has been also considered, and synonyms and related concepts for services have been added.

Services in the classification have been defined. Definitions tell both service providers and service users what the service is about. The definitions will be drafted as general as possible. For example, they do not say how often a service is offered or where it is offered. This kind of information is added in separate supplementary features by service providers.

In September 2014 the service classification for the social and health sector will be imported into the maintenance user interface of the service providers, and from October the first service providers will be able to test how they can inform about their services with the classification. It is hoped that the piloting will bring forward those services that are missing from the classification and those services included in the classification that are not actually needed. The experience gathered in the piloting will be used to develop the classification to meet the needs of the service providers better.

Vocabularies of social welfare to support information management

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) develops the information management in social welfare in Finland so that the information on the clients of social welfare can be better used in client work. The client data model made in this development work contains e.g. a classification of client documents and economic classifications for which the Finnish Terminology Centre TSK started to compile vocabularies in 2012. Classifications and vocabularies support the information management of social welfare and create prerequisites for developing e.g. information retrieval, transfer and archiving. The Vocabulary of Social Welfare Client Documents and the Vocabulary of Economic Classifications in Social Welfare were completed in June 2014.

Vocabulary of Economic Classifications in Social Welfare

Information on the client's economic situation is needed in social welfare in order to organize social services and economic aid. The economic situation of a client is determined e.g. when social assistance is granted or child support is confirmed.

The information collected and saved on clients' economic situation has been grouped into four classifications: income, expense, asset and debt classification. The aim of economic classifications is to gather and save economic information consistently. Nowadays different municipalities use their own classifications, which makes it hard to transfer information from one municipality to another and to handle information consistently.

The Vocabulary of Economic Classifications in Social Welfare contains term records and concept diagrams for more than 200 concepts. The vocabulary clarifies the content of the concepts with the help of definitions and complementing notes and gives recommendations on the Finnish terms that should be used when talking about the classifications. The relationships between concepts are illustrated with concept diagrams.

Terminological dictionaries handle information related to concepts or designations from one or more subject fields. The Vocabulary of Economic Classifications complies with the principles of systematic terminology work and mostly it contains concepts, but because it is a vocabulary that supports classifications, it contains also such classes that are not traditional concepts and that are not usually included in terminological dictionaries. These are the 'other' classes, like other expenses. These kind of classes are needed in classifications to ensure that everything necessary can be classified.

The vocabulary contains general concepts of economy that are defined specially for the needs of social welfare. It could be thought that concepts of economy are the same despite of the subject field, but different actors have different views on concepts. The reason behind these differences lies in legislation. For example the concept of earned income is narrower in social welfare than in taxation. According to tax authorities all other income than capital income is earned income whereas in social welfare only the income earned from work or expense allowances are earned income. Therefore benefits form their own class in the income classification in social welfare although according to tax authorities they are earned income. The definitions in the vocabulary try to take into account other usages, like correspondence between the information of Kela and tax administration. If this has not been possible, it is told how the view of social welfare differs from the view of others.

The vocabulary is aimed at experts who need to know the meaning of terms used in the economic classifications in social welfare. The vocabulary can also be useful for partners in social welfare and for citizens who apply for social services. The vocabulary is an important part of the development of information management that is in keeping with the enterprise architecture of public administration. This will create better conditions for the interoperability of information systems and utilization of information.

The Vocabulary of Economic Classifications in Social Welfare, version 1.0, has been published in TEPA term bank and on THL's web site (, only in Finnish).

Vocabulary of Social Welfare Client Documents

The 2.0 version of the Vocabulary of Social Welfare Client Documents complements the 1.0 version of the same vocabulary published in 2012. The new vocabulary gives Finnish definitions and term recommendations for about 300 concepts that refer to client documents used mainly in the service commissions, like adoption counselling. The vocabulary is meant specially to experts of social welfare and information system development who need information on the name recommendations of client documents and for what purpose different documents are used.

Commonly used document structures have been defined to support the registration of social welfare client work. The structures are in specified form, i.e. their data content and representation has been agreed on beforehand. The use of documents made out in a specified form supports the documentation of client work and the fulfilment of obligations required by legislation.

The terminology project was started as a support for the use and modelling of document structures in social welfare. The purpose was to clarify the concepts of document type classification in social welfare with terminology work.

The vocabulary defines common and specific document types. Common document types are common structures of documents that are meant for a certain use and exploited in the classification of documents and defined generally applicable in the modelling of social welfare documents. These documents as such are not used in practical client work. The specific document types are modelled from the structure of a certain common document type and they specify the use of a common document type. They describe the documents produced in practical social welfare work and contain e.g. client information provided by clients and registered by social welfare professionals. For example a notice is a common document type and a notice of the need for adoption counselling is a specified document type.

The vocabulary gives recommendations on the names of the documents. The purpose is to harmonize the naming and use of documents in Finnish municipalities. A special purpose of the terminology work is to recommend such names for the specified document types that are as coherent and clear as possible both for the social welfare experts, other experts and users of social services.

If a client document has an established name, it is usually recommended. However, many new client document names have been created. In this case, common principles are followed in naming similar client documents of different service commissions when possible. The compilers have tried to formulate the names of new client documents so that they are linguistically functional and that they describe the content of client documents unambiguously. It has not always been possible to combine both of these objectives. In such cases the intelligibility of a name for social welfare professionals has been prioritized.

Since social welfare documents are based in social welfare statutes, the expressions used in legal texts affect the naming of client documents. Sometimes a new name instead of an established one is recommended because the social welfare experts have felt that the established name is outdated or wrongly delimited.

The Vocabulary of Social Welfare Client Documents has been published in TEPA term bank and on THL's web site (, only in Finnish).