Community Circles have been working with Brandon Trust, the learning disability charity, to set up Community Circles for people with learning disabilities and autism. This is the story of a young lady supported by Brandon Trust named Georgia, and the positive difference her circle has made.
Georgia asked for a Community Circle because she wanted more going on in her life and to make some more local connections, especially with those her own age. As the Community Circles Connector with Brandon Trust, I matched Georgia with a lovely facilitator aptly named Joy, who I thought Georgia would get on well with, and who shares some of her interests – for example, they’re both keen cyclists.
To start her Community Circle, Georgia participated in a Person-Centred Review, looking at all the different areas in her life, what’s working and not working, and her aspirations for the future. It then set some achievable outcomes, and the proposed actions that the Circle could take to work towards these outcomes. At each Circle meeting, the facilitator Joy helps the Circle think about what they can do next, and what each person in the circle can contribute. Since our first meeting, Georgia has achieved some great things; she’s started a work placement, begun some classes, volunteers as a football helper, joined a social group, and has been accepted into a Duke of Edinburgh group to achieve her silver award.
Georgia’s Key Worker, Julia, has given some excellent feedback about exactly how Georgia’s circle has helped, so I’m going to quote her at length! Julia says:
“Georgia is really benefiting from the social side of the regular, informal Circle meetings. It’s been great for us to come together, share progress, and have friends and family more deeply involved, who might otherwise have been side-lined. We’re all better connected now: the members of the Circle know each other on a deeper level than before. We’ve bonded over snacks and laughter around the dining room table.
Mum keeps volunteering to bring along snacks to our get together (roughly monthly) and they are always delicious, a real high light! Georgia is leading the way and seems to have an increased sense of ownership and confidence about where things are heading. We’re sharing experiences, we always laugh a lot and significant progress is made. There is a sense of building a strong base, where the really important people (the family and close friends, the ones that will be there forever, not just the staff that may come and go) are feeling their worth and taking control. The Circle is slowly growing and blossoming, just as we had hoped. Friends that had some reservations about joining the Circle are now willing to get involved. Soon I feel I won’t be needed at all (it is funny; our goal as support staff is often to make our roles obsolete!).
We’re using a site called Rally Round, which helps with both the practical and social elements of the Circle. Rally Round, the regular circle meetings, and Joy’s facilitation, help us make sure that tasks that might otherwise get filed away in forgettable to-do lists, actually get done. Georgia has a ‘network’ on Rally Round, where we can easily add ‘helpers’, anyone can nominate a new ‘task’ that needs doing, or volunteer to do something. Some people can’t physically make it along, but are joining in remotely, in their own time. We’re all becoming better connected around Georgia, who is always at the centre of her Circle.
It’s not all fun of course, sometimes we discuss quite difficult things, but, every single meet-up has ended on a high. It’s also really reassuring to know that there is a connected group of dedicated loved ones who are there, ready, and willing to step in if things ever do take an unexpected or unfortunate turn. We’re stronger when we’re better connected!”
Community Circles Connector/ Volunteering Manager, Brandon Trust
Team Leader, Brandon Trust