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Preventing child sexual abuse is everyone’s business

Circles South West has been awarded a £36,000 grant by the PCC Tony Hogg towards a ground-breaking project

The £36,000 grant from the PCC is designed to protect children and adults from sexual harm by known perpetrators. Circles of Support and Accountability has been shown to reduce reconvictions for sexual offending by 70%. 

Jo Burden, Circles South West’s Director says “We are so grateful for this grant. It means that we can set up 5 new Circles, putting community volunteers at the heart of a solution proven to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse”."

So how does it work?

Most sex offenders come out of prison with low self-esteem, few social contacts and little to occupy them. Some say that this is just what they deserve, but research tells us that these factors actually increase the risk of them committing another offence. Circles both hold sex offenders to account for their behaviour whilst also helping them to rebuild their lives: providing this careful balance of accountability and support when they come out of prison actually helps keeps children safe.

This approach is endorsed by the NSPCC "We see Circles of Support and Accountability as an excellent child protection and prevention initiative" Jon Brown, Head of Strategy & Development, NSPCC, 2014.

Jay, a Circles Volunteer, said: “If you want to stop the community from being hurt, the best way is to try and help stop people reoffending”.

The offender is referred to as the ‘core member’ and the Circle of four or five volunteers meets weekly with him at a safe venue. At these meetings, the aim is to support the man in his wish to lead an offence-free lifestyle. This can involve looking at the factors that led him to originally offend, helping him meet those needs in a different and safe way, challenging any attitudes and beliefs that support his previous offending and offering him practical and realistic support. It is the balance between support and accountability that is one of the keys to the success of circles.

"I am delighted to have been able to fund the development of Circles of Support within Devon and Cornwall." said PCC Tony Hogg

"Ensuring that sex offenders continue their rehabilitation with the support they need, has been shown to reduce reoffending significantly. Having this service available locally will mean fewer victims and helps to meet my commitment within the Police and Crime Plan to reduce reoffending."

Volunteers are carefully selected and trained. They never work alone and support is always available at the end of the phone or in supervision sessions with the local coordinator. The police, probation and social services are all closely involved with the work, making sure that everyone is safe. There are around 25 volunteers currently engaged in active Circles across the South West, and there need to be more.

Circles South West is now recruiting for ordinary people who are prepared to do something extraordinary to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual harm. For further information email volunteering.circlessw@gmail.com, call 07738 947988 or visit the webpage www.circles-uk.org.uk/local-projects/south-west-england

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