On 25th November 2020 Circles UK hosted a seminar to launch the results of an in-depth, independent evaluation study undertaken by a research team at the Sexual Offences, Crime and Misconduct Research Unit (SOCMRU), Nottingham Trent University. The evaluation study captured the findings of a four-year project entitled ‘Completing the Circle: A Community Approach to Reducing Sexual Abuse.’ Over 100 participants attended the event, representing agencies and organisations from countries as far afield as Sweden, Canada, and New Zealand.
What was the Completing the Circle Project?
Loneliness, isolation, and alienation are known high-risk factors for sexual recidivism. Circles are a unique programme for reducing these risks. Circles work with high-risk sexual harm causers to augment stretched statutory provisions for this group of offenders and so help prevent further sexual abuse.
In a Circle, 4-6 local Volunteers work with an individual who has been assessed as a high risk. The ‘Circle’ meets for at least 12 months. The person who has committed a sexual offence/s – known as the Core Member – is supported by the Volunteers to reintegrate safely into the community. The Volunteers also hold him/her/they accountable for their past and future behaviours.
In 2015 the National Lottery Community Fund awarded a grant of £2,040,394 to a consortium of Circle Providers brought together and led by Circles UK. The Consortium was tasked to establish delivery in parts of the country where Circles did not exist. These areas were Merseyside, London, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Northamptonshire.
Results were impressive. In just over four years, Circles Providers were set up in all previously ‘un-served’ areas, 188 Circles were delivered and almost 800 Volunteers were recruited, trained, and supervised. Together these Volunteers spent nearly 40,000 hours engaged in Circle activities. Qualitative results, drawing from a thematic analysis of reports compiled at the end of each Circle, along with interviews with a sample of key participants, produced evidence which markedly illustrated the complexities surrounding the Core Member client group, the individualised and distinctly ‘person centred’ character of the Circles model and the skill and tenacity demonstrated by Volunteers.