Isolation and loneliness can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Mary’s Circle set out to help her to connect with others in her area, by supporting her to become more involved with her faith community.
Mary is a lady who takes great pride in her appearance and loves having her nails done. She really enjoys people-watching, and loves to go to church.
Cath, the Community Circles Connector, was introduced to Mary by a member of staff at Mary’s home during an informal meeting. They chatted together about what Mary would like to change or do differently in her life, and it was agreed that the purpose of Mary’s Circle would be to support her to reconnect with her faith community.
At the start of the circle, Mary’s only relationships were with people who were paid to spend time with her. Mary’s first circle meeting included Mary, Cath as the facilitator, and two female support workers. Over cream cakes, the Circle shared memories of time spent with Mary, how important her faith is and the pleasure she gets out of going to church. The Circle were conscious that Mary had no other relationships in her life, and wanted to actively support her to develop relationships and connections in her local community.
At the second meeting, the Circle gathered detailed information with Mary and developed actions for supporting her to reconnect with her faith community. Helen Smith facilitated a person centred review in Mary’s home, and Cath, Mary and the two paid staff participated in the meeting.
Starting to connect
As a result of the Circle’s ideas, Mary began to go more regularly to church. She also started to attend the church’s Welcome Club on a Thursday.
The Circle’s aim was to support Mary to develop relationships within her parish. Now Mary regularly sees people at church and at the Welcome Club, and has visitors from church several times a month. Through this, she now has friends with whom she shares common ground – their faith.
Mary has even begun to invite people from her parish to her circle meetings, and so her Circle has now grown, too. In the Circle meetings the members of her parish participate fully, reflecting together on what’s working and not working in Mary’s life. Mary is currently exploring what contributions she can make at her church, and is also looking at using an iPad to support communication with her new friends.
Achieving goals, together
The purpose of Mary’s Circle was to reconnect her to her faith community. At the first meeting, Mary felt that she was a long way from achieving this. After a year of working with her Circle Cath asked Mary the same question, and Mary now felt that she had achieved the purpose her Circle was set up to achieve. We also measured Mary’s loneliness and wellbeing, and positive impacts were seen on both after a year with her Circle.
Mary doesn’t use many words to speak and prefers to write things down. This is what Mary said about her Circle; “Friends again, I speak to people when I go to church.”
Katherine Runswick-Cole is a Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology at Manchester. She says of Mary’s circle: “I think that Mary’s Circle alone should persuade people of the power of a Circle. I was so delighted to see her friends from church there this time. Her life looks so much fuller.”