There is much discussion around this subject.  Some feel strongly that anyone facilitating a circle should be paid but others feel that this may mean some families missing out on this valuable resource, and don’t feel comfortable with the issue of payment.

The pro’s and con’s of paid and unpaid facilitators were discussed in Circles of Support and Personalisation by Helen Sanderson and Max Neill, and here is a summary of some of the issues.

When the facilitator is unpaid:


  • Cheaper – no cost.
  • Closeness of facilitator to person.
  • Avoids some conflicts of interest.
  • Unselfinterested motivation of facilitator.


  • Family and person feel beholden to facilitator.
  • Feeling of obligation to repay the facilitator in other ways.
  • What happens when facilitator gets another job, moves away?
  • Other conflicts of interest
  • If facilitator is also a main carer, ends up with two jobs – both providing support and organising circle.
  • How is the facilitator held accountable?
  • Unlikely to work at scale, as people who can consistently work for nothing are thin on the ground!

When the Facilitator is Paid:


  • Facilitator can be required to work to a particular standard, be trained to a particular level – if the circle wishes.
  • Person/circle can fire the facilitator and hire another!
  • Accountability to the circle: easier to ask a person you pay to change the way they work
  • Facilitator is rewarded for their work, including some of the administration of the circle
  • Stability/longevity of circle: becomes ‘enduring’. Could continue during absence of main carer.
  • Skilled facilitators help develop many new circles.
  • Can be repeated at scale, if a source of funding can be found
  • ‘Invest to save’, a circle
plans how to use its various resources to meet the person’s needs and aspirations most effectively, immediately and over the long term.


  • Finding ways to pay the facilitator.
  • Does the facilitator become ‘just another professional’?
  • Questions about motivation of the facilitator.
  • Where will the money come from?
  • Are people confident enough in the power and effectiveness of circles to invest money in a circles facilitator?

moneyHow could it be funded?

After looking at the pro’s and con’s, we also need to consider how a facilitator role could be funded.

Some families receive a Personal Budget from their Local Authority in order for them to purchase needs-assessed services.  Could it be possible for families to ask for a Circle as a needed service?  As the Government is often asking us to consider the Big Society and look at the Real Wealth of a family, then surely having a Circle would help families to accurately, and meaningfully, assess and use the wealth of support available to the family.

Meaningful assessment is vital at a time when cuts are being made to so many valuable services.  I have sat with a practitioner who made a lovely list of all the people in my own life who they considered my “real wealth” however, what they failed to consider was that most of these people were also parent/carers of children with a disability.  As much as those people may be there for me emotionally as a carer, they could not (with the best will in the world) be there for my family in a practical manner.  So, the practitioner provided an accurate list, but it was in no way meaningful.

Another option may be for the Circle members to each contribute what they can to the cost of the Facilitator.

One of the other options I have heard suggested several times is “time banking”.  Now, let’s move away from jargon for a moment and give realistic examples of what this could mean.  A facilitator has a large allotment but no time to attend to it, a Circle may have a few members who would happily give up some of their time to work on the allotment in return for the facilitator’s time within the Circle.  Another example is a self-employed facilitator who needs help with administration, book keeping or the dreaded filing – again, someone within the Circle may happily provide this support in return.

Another alternative would be for Facilitators to be funded via a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility.  Several companies donate time and money to local causes, perhaps there is the option of a member of the Circle (who is in employment) asking their own company if they would like to contribute.

Approximately what costs are we actually talking about?

Each Circle will be different.  Some will last for one or two meetings, others for 6 months, others will be ongoing due to complex needs.  However, if we consider a 6 month Circle with meetings every 6 weeks, we are probably looking at 5 Circle meetings (approx. 2 hours per meeting), an initial meeting between the Facilitator and the family before the first Circle and then say one hour per Circle for the Facilitator to update paperwork and any other interested parties.

So the Facilitator would need 16 hours funding.  The facilitators could be paid 25 per hour so the cost for a six month circle as described above would be £400.

So, what is the answer?

What do you think?  Should the Facilitator be paid?  If so, how should they be paid?  We would love to hear your views.