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


Circles South West Celebrates Our Volunteers

Volunteers Week begins today, June 1-7, and we like to take this opportunity every year to thank our dedicated, talented and wonderful volunteers.

With now almost 200 volunteers with us, it’s important to recognise each and every one of them – our volunteers give up their free time, deal with difficult situations, have their patience and their tenacity tested and celebrate the successes and commiserate the set-backs.

They are always hungry for new learning, wanting to hone their skills and to provide our core members with the most valuable experience a circle can bring to their lives.

Our volunteers are very different people – ranging from young to old, with different careers, different perspectives, with families and without. But the one thing that ties them all together is their drive to stop sexual harm and change people’s lives for the better.

Here are some of their stories:


What a diverse bunch my core members have been! The youngest was 21 and the oldest in his 40s, all with different offending patterns and different attitudes to their offending and on different parts of their journeys – post-prison, on probation, on the sex offenders register…

They have shared some things: usually chaotic family backgrounds where role models were mostly negative and a couple have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Some have really wanted to put their pasts behind them and move on, others have seemed to be “stuck in mud” unable to know how to get out of it.

All core members started off not really knowing what we were about – suspicious, not trusting. They have uniformly come into contact with police and probation – paid to try to keep them on their own version of the straight and narrow – and they can’t initially get their heads around a bunch of ordinary people being paid nothing to help them in whatever way they can, week in, week out for months and months. I have seen all of them eventually relax and feel safe.

It can be hard to help or advise about things like accommodation, work, socialising – all things that most core members have to battle to achieve. They often ask for advice on things like how to cook, what to cook, how to manage money, etc, what and when to tell people about their pasts. We sometimes do role plays for things like interviews or difficult conversations. Occasionally (with permission) we break out of our meeting rooms and socialise or meet outdoors.

Although our task is serious, we also have lots of laughter! Sometimes it helps to see the funny side of things. We DO however hear some sad stuff and respond appropriately.

By and large, our core members not only stay the course but have something positive to show for it – and we can feel that we have in some small way helped them along a path to non-offending. We never lose sight that our aim is “no more victims” and we can be pretty firm about how we think this can be achieved and the pitfalls that can appear along the way.

It is so helpful to be part of a group with a core member as everyone has such different approaches about what to try and we learn from each other. For something that takes only a couple of hours a week it is so worthwhile. And the training is second to none. I have experienced LOTS of volunteer training and this was by far the best. My advice to anyone thinking of volunteering – give it a go, you get just as much (if not more) out of it than you put in!


I got involved with circles when a young person I was fostering was identified as an offender, he was given a circle and inside of 3 weeks I could see a difference in his attitude, I spoke to the coordinator of his circle and was hooked. I became a volunteer and that was 4 years ago.

I hoped to be able to help young people turn their lives around and accept what they had done and help them move on in a positive way.

I have seen scared young people at the start of a circle, with low self-esteem and self-worth, work hard to get to know the volunteers and, over the year, turn into confident happy people who I’m confident will not be a concern in the future .

Helping turn young people’s lives around is hard frustrating work at times but it’s probably the most rewarding thing I have done.


I started to work with Circles as I wanted to be involved with a charity who worked in a group with ex- offenders. As I had previously counselled in a prison it felt like I had the right skill set.

I have loved the support from all the staff who have gone the extra mile to make us feel special. When a Core member flourishes and moves on to a meaningful life which no longer includes offending behaviour, it is a wonderful feeling to see a life restored. And many lives probably saved from abuse.

We are so grateful to all our volunteers for being with us for another year. So many come and then stay for several circles, seeing the difference they make over the course of their volunteering is enough to motivate them to dedicate years of their lives to this project.

So, thank you Circles South West volunteers – we couldn’t do this without you.

If you want to become a Circles South West volunteer and join our team you can apply here. Read more about volunteering here or contact our volunteer coordinator at

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