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


Young People’s Service: A Year of Two Halves

As we approach the end of yet another difficult year, it seems timely to reflect upon the challenges and achievements of 2021 for Circles South West’s Young People’s Service. Jackie Citron our Young People’s Service Coordinator shares her thoughts.

Due to the escalation in Covid cases across the UK in January, most of the new Young People’s (YP) circles planned for the start of the year had to be postponed and two existing YP circles were placed ‘on hold’ until March. Despite this, one new YP circle started in January in a venue where social distancing could be safely maintained. The volunteers in this circle were particularly creative at engaging their core member and invented whiteboard ‘Snakes & Ladders’ which proved a triumph! Another existing YP circle was permitted to continue due to space for social distancing at the venue.

In March, two new YP circles finally got underway – both for female core members. One circle that had been ‘on hold’ since the start of the year re-started, the other remaining ‘on hold’ due to ongoing parental anxiety about Covid. All YP circles had to find creative ways to engage their core members without access to the usual cafes or activities. Socially distanced board games became very popular along with interactive games on mobile phones, word games and an old favourite; charades. When the weather began to improve and Covid restrictions relaxed, circles were able to meet outside, going for walks in public spaces and playing outdoor mini golf.

In July when Covid restrictions were fully lifted, YP circles were able to resume café meetings and indoor activities. This was hugely beneficial for those core members for whom development of social skills and life skills are the primary focus of circle support. In several cases the core members struggled to leave the comfort of their meeting rooms but with perseverance by the circles, eventually gained confidence and made it back into the community – engaging in activities including bowling, mini golf, pool and badminton and regularly meeting in cafes for drinks and conversation.

In September, two new YP circles started – one in North Somerset and the other in Bristol. Since then, two new enquiries have been received and these are currently progressing towards becoming circles that will start early in the New Year. It has been a relief to be able to offer these new core members a more active and engaging circles experience – activities providing a positive way to engage young people and enabling them to build rapport with their volunteers, whilst developing their social skills, self-esteem and confidence – strengths that are proven to reduce the risks of future sexual harm.

So it has been a year of two halves for Circles South West’s Young People’s Service, and one which has been both challenging and rewarding. Looking ahead, we are now in a fantastic position to offer more circles to young people aged 10-14 across the South West region, well into 2022 and beyond.

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