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Circles of Support are perhaps the area of work Circles Network is best known for.

Over the last  two decades we have initiated and developed thousands of Circles of Support across the UK and further afield.

We run small and large projects where we directly provide on-going facilitation to build Circles of Support across the UK. We currently have Circles of Support projects in North and South Wales, West and East Sussex, Surrey, Cambridgeshire and Warwickshire. We also provide people with training and learning opportunities to take the lead in developing their own Circles of Support through our Academy for Inspiring Inclusion.  

One of our most  recent projects was in Oxfordshire, where the team established 19 Circles with the help of 92 volunteers in its first year and secured another two years funding from the Oxfordshire Partnership Board. We were delighted to run this very successful project and to be able to extend the provision to people in the community with learning difficulties as well as those living with elderly parents or carers.

 

What is a Circle of Support?

'The Circle is hard to describe; it's too simple' 
Regina DeMarasse

The idea of a Circle of Support was developed in Canada, spread fairly quickly through North America and our early Circles here in the UK began in the mid 1980s.

A Circle of Support, sometimes called a Circle of Friends, is a group of people who meet together on a regular basis to help somebody accomplish their personal goals in life. The Circle acts as a community around that person (the 'focus person') who, for one reason or another, is unable to achieve what they want in life on their own and decides to ask others for help. The focus person is in charge, both in deciding who to invite to be in the Circle, and also in the direction that the Circle's energy is employed, although a facilitator is normally chosen from within the Circle to take care of the work required to keep it running.

The members of the Circle of Support, who may include family, friends and other community members, are not paid to be there. They are involved because they care enough about the focus person to give their time and energy to helping that person to overcome obstacles and increase the options which are open to them. Although the focus person's goals are the primary drive in everything the Circle does, the relationship is not just one way. The members will all have diverse gifts and interests, and there can appear many new opportunities and possibilities which had not even been considered before forming the Circle. Because of this, an important function of the Circle is to regularly re-visit the plans which they are working with, to keep the direction current in terms of what the person really wishes to achieve.

A Circle of Support is not a service or tool to be applied to a certain group of people. Circles are about seeing people as individuals who feel they need support in order to take more control over their own lives. A Circle properly facilitated is empowering to all of the individuals involved and, unlike many service systems, does not reinforce dependence.

  • A Circle is like any group of friends. Everyone joins because they want to be there. No one is paid to be a member of a Circle.
  • Most people that have a Circle of Support say that from the first meeting of their Circle their lives become so much bigger.
  • People suddenly realise that they have a group of friends that have genuine interest in supporting them to reach and fulfil their dreams and aspirations.
  • The difference between a Circle of Support to a group of friends is that the Circle is focused on one person. 
  • A Circle of Support can change a person’s life; by providing an individual with the confidence to dream and plan for the future. 
  • The focus person is the person in control of the Circle and the decision making. This is a key reason why this method of support is so unique.

Circles Network can help you set up and facilitate Circles of Support. We have experienced and highly trained facilitators available across the country. If you think you would benefit from this support please do contact us.

Our facilitators are also supported by a wealth of unique tools and materials, specifically designed by Circles Network to help people dream, explore, build and plan their future lives. We can train you to use these resources if you would like to be able to set up Circles of Support in your own work, please see www.academyforinspiringinclusion

 

Why do we believe so strongly in Circles of Support?

  • Circles of Support are about empowering disabled and disadvantaged people and ensuring their voice is heard and that they are included in decisions about their lives.
  • Circles of Support help those who are excluded or isolated, who live with physical disability, learning difficulties, mental health issues or disadvantage. We use Circles of Support in the home, community and in schools to help young people and adults to progress to fuller and more inclusive lives.
  • A Circle of Support is a very simple idea but one that has far reaching impact and benefits for everyone involved.
  • A Circle catalyses creativity, energy and commitment to help the focus person dream, dare and do, to overcome constraints and lead a rich and inclusive life. We believe Circles of Support are the most important tools we use to provide self-sustaining support, emotional and practical support, problem solving and companionship.

 

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