Delivering circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending


Case Study E

Young People's Circle (Under 18)

The Core Member (CM) was referred to Circles by the Bristol Be Safe Service for Young People with Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB). At this time, he had been engaging in therapeutic intervention with Be Safe for 9 months having been referred by Children’s Social Care.

When the CM was aged 10 he and his female siblings were made subject to a full Care Order and placed in foster care as a result of significant physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by their parents. The CM’s HSB was first noted by his foster carer; sexualised behaviour between the CM and both of his siblings (one slightly older and one a few years younger). The HSB involved sexual touching and other inappropriate sexualised behaviours and was instigated primarily by the CM.

As a result of the HSB, the CM was moved to another foster placement away from his siblings and it was whilst living here that his work with Be Safe began. He was assessed by Be Safe and was deemed to pose a medium risk of sexual harm to younger and more vulnerable females.

At the time of the Circles referral, the CM was entering the final 6 months of his therapeutic intervention with Be Safe and was an open case to Children’s Social Care as a Looked After Child (LAC) in foster care. He was in his final year at school and about to complete his GCSEs.

The purpose of the Circle was to support the work of Be Safe by helping the CM to adhere to his Safety Plan by managing his sexual thoughts and feelings appropriately. The Circle was also tasked with helping the CM to develop his self-esteem and social skills in preparation for leaving school and starting a College course; factors that would also serve to reduce his risk of future HSB.

The Circle initially comprised of 4 volunteers – two male and two female; all of whom were aged under 40. The Circle ran for 16 months in total and had 54 meetings. Overall the volunteers had 158 hours of face to face contact with the CM and gave an additional 126 hours of their time for travel and other commitments such as volunteer supervision and training.

The Circle met weekly and began by engaging the CM in conversation about his interests and by playing card and board games at a local café. As time went on, the Circle engaged in activities such as bowling, climbing, geocaching, and crazy golf. Fortnightly activities were alternated with café meetings throughout the first 12 months of the Circle. During this time the CM grew in confidence and his social skills developed notably. He completed his intervention with Be Safe, finished his school exams and commenced a course at College. He also began volunteering for a national charity where he received an award for volunteering. The initial 12 month period of the Circle was extended by 4 months to offer support to the CM as he was experiencing mental health difficulties at this time.

The CM continues to attend College and is planning to move into independent accommodation when he turns 18. He says:

‘I think my Circle has helped me in a way of like it’s helped develop my social skills. And if something has gone on in my life I do feel free to go there and use the time to sit and talk about it and like find ways to deal with it and help move on from it. So there’s not just the fun side of it, there is a serious side where you can chat about all the issues that’s going on and stuff and they understand it. And they ain’t gonna choose a side, they’re like neutral. It’s useful.’

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