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


Circles South West’s Independent Evaluator Publishes Core Member Outcomes 2021

Since 2017 Research in Practice (RiP) has independently evaluated Circles of Support and Accountability provided by Circles South West (CSW) with ethics approval from Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS) National Research Committee (NRC).

The RiP research highlights the statistically significant impact of Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) in reducing dynamic risk factors associated with sexual recidivism over the life of a CoSA, including sexual interests, offence related attitudes, relationships and self-management. Dynamic risk is impacted by protective factors such as 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 CoSA. Data for each circle is collected at multiple time points, using multiple tools and from multiple stakeholders, providing a comprehensive data set.

Reporting in 2021 on a data-set of 99 CoSA, Research in Practice found the outcomes in the table below for core members between the start and end of their CoSA.

As a result of the pandemic, it is inevitable, perhaps, that outcomes are slightly less favourable than reported last year (n=85). Nevertheless, outcomes are very positive overall and core members reported on the value of Circles during the pandemic as also evidenced by the Code of Practice Review Report[1]:

“Perhaps the most powerful commendation of the response by Circles South West to the Covid pandemic was from interviews with the core members. For vulnerable individuals, their Circle appears to have been a crucial lifeline and has offered them support and engagement with others during a prolonged period of anxiety and isolation” Circles UK, 2021

“Circles provide a source of positive support, particularly when other support might have fallen away… due to core members’ challenging behaviour, their past actions, or their own difficulties with self-esteem and well-being. Whatever the reasons for their isolation and seclusion, the circle presents a reliable and consistent structure in their lives that has shown to be supportive in establishing longer term and more permanent changes”

The majority of core members appear to have reduced dynamic risk of reoffending at the end of their Circles compared to the beginning… evidence from across the evaluations suggests that the Circle has had a large contributory effect in this reduction of risk”

“Partners in prison, probation and youth services have a positive view of this work, and CSW are complementing wider work in the criminal justice sector. CoSA are an important part of a community-led, strengths-based and restorative approach to reducing the risk of future sexual abuse”

Research in Practice, Independent Evaluator

Full evaluation reports can be found on our website here Making a difference – Circles South West (

[1] Circles South West is an accredited member of Circles UK, the body responsible to the Ministry of Justice for embedding national standards for the provision of CoSA, undertaking regular Provider ‘Code of Practice Compliance Reviews’ to assess compliance with national standards. Circles South West was the subject of a full Compliance Review in Spring 2021, achieving 97.7% compliance against national standards (i.e. the ‘Code of Practice for Circles of Support & Accountability v4 July 2018’ and the ‘Code of Practice for Young People’s Circles of Support & Accountability v1 2018’)


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