The Circles of Support and Accountability model hinges on collaborative working relationships with key partner agencies including police, probation, prisons, youth offending teams, social care and health. Circles South West works closely with the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) coordinators across the region and we have memoranda of understanding, formalising our partnership work with all 5 strategic management boards of the region’s MAPPA.
The inner circle comprises the core member and volunteers and the outer circle is formed of professionals representing the partner agencies working with the core member. The core member (and parents/carers in the case of young people) consent to information being shared with members of the outer circle as appropriate.
The Circle is a partnership
Typically, a circle for an adult core member has a probation officer and police offender manager involved, one of whom will have made the formal referral for a Circle. This entails an initial discussion with the local coordinator about eligibility and suitability. The probation officer/offender manager then completes a full referral form and provides risk assessment reports (e.g. OASys, RM2000, Asset, ARMS). Both police and probation are expected to attend an initial briefing session with the volunteers and coordinator, during which the volunteers are apprised of the background and offences of the core member and given guidance on goal setting within the Circle. Police/Probation are sent the minutes of circle meetings and are expected to attend quarterly reviews as well as updating the coordinator about any significant developments in relation to the core member’s progress, risk and needs. We ask referrers to contribute to evaluation by completing an end of circle stakeholder questionnaire.
In addition to the above, prison/through the gate circles can include relevant prison staff in the outer circle as well as relevant staff from the approved premises (former probation hostels). Circles for adults with intellectual disabilities usually include a professional from the forensic community learning disabilities team (health). For a young person, the referrer is more likely to be a social worker or youth offending officer but the same expectations apply. In addition, there is often a professional specialising in harmful sexual behaviour involved who is providing the young person with treatment (e.g. BeSafe Bristol, Glebe House).
Our collaborative approach extends to our service users (core members) and our volunteers and we are strongly committed to user participation and voice. The sensitive nature of our work often requires a creative approach to co-production with, and participation of, core members. Recent examples include volunteer and core member involvement in promotional films, an example of which can be seen here. Core members are encouraged to contribute to our newsletters, recent examples include an article written by a core member about his experience of a prison/through the gate circle, and a poem written by a core member about his post-conviction journey, including his circle. A core member (and volunteer from his Circle) spoke at our AGM about his circle experience, a powerful and memorable presentation. We also have volunteer representation on our board of trustees and experienced volunteers are involved in the training of prospective new volunteers.