Written by Caroline Tomlinson


Yesterday I blogged about Circles of Support, the role of facilitators, training and how there are more than 30 Circles set up and running in Wigan. Today I want to share with you some of the individual stories of those Circles; why they were set up, how they work and what they have achieved.

Paul’s Pondering Posse

Paul’s Circle was set up so that his mum and dad and their non disabled daughter, could have peace of mind if anything should happen to mum and dad. They had wanted a Circle for years but didn’t think it would be possible to do. The big issue for them was who would you ask and would people be interested. The facilitator, Kevin, really made this work and reassured them throughout the process. What they never anticipated was that when they set up the Circle, there would be so many on-going issues that they were struggling to deal with; the Circle has really helped on a practical and emotional level and is making the whole family feel much more confident about the future.

Jenny’s Jolly Jaunts

A Circle has been set up for Jenny, a young lady with very complex needs. She was in her final year of college within a special school setting. Both mum and dad were very anxious about their daughter’s future and hadn’t got confidence in a social worker giving the family the best options for their daughter. Where she lives, transition social workers still only get involved with the individual six months before they leave college at 19. After just two Circle meetings and lots of tasks completed by the Circle members, this young lady had more options available than she could fit into a week. Ironically, most of the activities were part of universal services, which was fantastic considering her complex disability. I recall during those early Circle meetings, both mum and dad said they were quite overwhelmed by what the Circle had achieved in such a short space of time, and they couldn’t measure just how much pressure the Circle had taken off the family.

How long do we wait for the Invite?

A single parent heard a presentation from Our Futures and took the information away with her. She then got in contact with us four months later. She wanted a Circle for both her son and daughter because she’d started to have concerns regarding the future and if anything should happen to her. Both her son and daughter were living at home and had no plans for moving out. They both had a learning disability, but if anything should happen to their mum it would be possible for them to continue living together with occasional support at home. Mum’s main concerned was that without her, her children would not be able to afford to stay in their family home together. She was concerned about what would happen if they moved, how they would feel and what risks they might be exposed to. At first she was struggling to think of anyone who would want to sit on a Circle. However, after spending a bit of time with the coordinator she came up with 5 names – 5 people who were waiting and happy to be invited.  The Circle will help the family plan for their future – releasing some of the pressures and giving mum more confidence about what is possible.

What happens when I’m gone?

Brendan is in his 40’s and found himself in residential care. His Mum had died years before and his Dad had just died suddenly. Brendan wanted a Circle but the people paid to be in his life were sadly resisting. The Circle finally got going after negotiating long and hard with the paid staff, and their first goal was to support Brendan to move in with someone he really wanted to live; finally Brendan would have more choice and control in his life.

The Circles have in some instances moved mountains, given people a feeling of security or have simply cheered people up.  What we are seeing is a very real concept that whatever shape or form the Circle takes, it is providing something which has never existed before. The people at the heart of the Circles and their family and friends are feeling much safer and more secure. They say they can’t believe how such a simple concept seems to be so effective.  The effectiveness we believe is that it is owned, loved and cared for by families. We don’t profess it is the right solution for everyone nor do we think it should become a standardised practice, however it provides the infrastructure for offering people peace of mind should they wish to take it.

We are committed to sharing knowledge and learning from people’s unique experiences. If you have a story about Circles and would like other people to hear it please email rowan@helensandersonassociates.co.uk

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