Each Circle will operate slightly differently depending on the core members’ individual needs. The following are examples of subjects the Circle may discuss.
Relationships with age appropriate adults can be difficult for core members. Social isolation and emotional loneliness are key areas in which the Circle can have a positive impact on.
Volunteers act as pro-social models in showing the core member how appropriate adult relationships are built and how communication takes place in these relationships. They also model how to deal with difficulties and challenges within a relationship.
This will be valuable to the core member in future relationships, as many do not have these problem solving and social skills, which will have contributed to their social isolation.
Accountability for Maintaining Treatment Goals:
Volunteers will be aware of the core member’s New Life Plan, their coping strategy to maintain an offence free future life. If difficulties arise for the core member and they are not implementing their coping strategies, it is the Circle that will remind him/her of their responsibilities to remain in the community offence free.
Building Self-Esteem & Self-Worth:
Many core members come to Circles with very low self-esteem and a low opinion of themselves as they are aware of society’s opinions of individuals who commit sexual crimes. Through regular contact with the Circle, a group of individuals who represent society more widely, and through focusing on the future and making progress, rather than repeatedly examining their offending behaviour, many find their self-esteem improves dramatically.
Many core members believe that everyone will know about their potential to offend just by looking at them, because of the levels of guilt and shame they feel. Being involved in a Circle helps to demonstrate that they are more than 'just an offender' and help them to realise that they can cope in 'public settings' as people will not automatically assume the worst of them. For some core members, having volunteers support them to go in to a coffee shop and order a drink is a major achievement as they would not previously have been able to interact with members of the public because of their fears and shame.
This improved self-esteem means they are more willing and able to engage in a positive and productive life as they will have more confidence to tackle issues.
Housing issues can vary from struggling to maintain a property, moving on from Probation Approved Premises, to facing eviction.
Circles volunteers can be involved in a number of ways, from giving practical advice to the core member, or advocating on their behalf. We can access specialist advice to give extra support to the Circle if necessary.
Finances & Budgeting:
Core members may struggle with managing their finances, especially if they have spent a significant time in prison. Debt can impact negatively on them, to the extent that they have difficulty in managing other areas of their life. A major concern would be if the core member became socially isolated because they did not have the finances to engage in social activities.
Practical help could take the form of helping the core member write to creditors to agree a repayment plan. It might be simply to go shopping with the core member, helping them devise a budget plan or helping them to set up direct debits to pay utility bills.
Employment / Meaningful Daytime Activity:
Typical problems for our core members are issues around appropriate employment. For those convicted of a sexual offence it is also very important to consider any restrictions that courts or the Parole Board have imposed.
Volunteers may support their core member to increase their employability skills, before they are ready to look at taking on formal employment. This may include support to access volunteering opportunities, education and qualifications. These can be an important stepping stone towards employment as they encourage structure, routine and commitment, whilst also giving something valuable to write on a CV and hopefully a positive reference which will be valuable to potential employers. It may also include assisting the Core member to prepare a CV or practicing mock interviews.
The core member will have been out of the job market for a number of years and need to build up their confidence. Many need encouraging to continue to persevere in light of regular knock-backs and to have realistic expectations about what they may be able to do. If your core member is on license, a condition will be that their Probation Officer will have to approve any offers of employment.
Disclosure of convictions to potential employers will usually be necessary but potentially difficult for the core member. Volunteers can assist with this through liaison with key professionals and supporting the core member to plan an appropriate disclosure and allowing them to 'practice' their disclosure.
The Circle Coordinator may also be able to offer support to an organisation who is willing to consider allowing a core member to volunteer/work for them.
Outside of the employment arena, volunteers will be looking to support their core member to identify other appropriate activities to which to fill their time; to encourage their involvement in their community, building relationships with other people and preventing boredom, thus reducing their risk of reoffending.
Drugs & Alcohol:
Core members are like any other section of society and may have had problems with substance misuse. Part of the Circle agreement they sign states that they agree to share any problems that they might have and seek appropriate help.
Substance misuse is a specialist field and as such we would encourage volunteers to get the Coordinator to refer on any core member who is experiencing problems in this area. The core member is aware that they cannot attend Circle meetings under the influence. Training in substance awareness is available.
Again, core members may have problems with depression or anxiety. It might be that the core member has higher than usual levels of paranoia.
On a practical level the Circle volunteers can be supportive to help reduce levels of depression, anxiety and paranoia. If the Circle feels that problems are more deep-rooted they should encourage the core member to visit their GP. Again, it would be useful to seek other opinions from Probation and/or Mental Health professionals through contacting your Coordinator in the first instance.