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


Circles South West’s Young People’s Service shortlisted for Howard League Community Award

Exciting news! Our Young People’s Circles of Support and Accountability Project has been shortlisted for the Howard League for Penal Reform Community Award 2020 in the Children in Care and Care Leaver’s Category. Congratulations and thanks extended to all staff and volunteers involved! We’re looking forward to the community award online conference later in October when winners will be announced.

Back in 2016 we adapted the traditional Circles model to meet the needs of young people 14 years plus, and last year secured funding to work with children from the age of 10 years. Since 2016 we have coordinated 26 young people’s circles. This innovative community project harnesses the skills and commitment of local volunteers to support children in care and care leavers convicted of sexual offending and/or who have perpetrated harmful sexual behaviour. We work in close partnership with public protection and other relevant organisations, including children’s social care, youth offending teams and specialist health services.

The majority of the young people with whom we work are children in care or care leavers; last year this cohort accounted for 62% of the young people for whom we provided Circles. Many of them have been involved in harmful sexual behaviour within the family unit.

Last year we provided 13 Circles for 13 individual young people. The main referrers were children’s social care and other specialist services for young people with harmful sexual behaviour. Half of the young people did not live with their birth or adoptive family and were instead under the care the local authority, in residential or foster care. On average, young people attended 40 Circle meetings over 12 months. 46 volunteers gave between them around 3,300 volunteering hours. This equates to an in kind value of around £47,850.

Independent evaluation conducted by Research in Practice highlights the statistically significant impact of Circles in reducing dynamic risk factors associated with sexual recidivism over the course Circles (including sexual interests, offence related attitudes, relationships and self-management). Dynamic risk is impacted by protective factors such as education/employment and accommodation status, community connectivity and involvement in positive activities as well as risk factors such as social isolation and emotional loneliness, all of which are addressed by Circles.

The most recent evaluation report (May 20) by Research in Practice reporting specifically on our Young People’s Circles Project is encouraging. Evaluating 22 individual young people’s data sets they found that:

Research In Practice concludes that:

“Circles enable young people to access activities and a degree of independence which they might not otherwise be able to do due to court orders/risk management plans. It was considered the relationships which keep them coming back”.

We’re hugely grateful to all the funders supporting our young people’s service, in particular the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, TNL Community Fund, Glebe House and Local Authority contributors.

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