Mary’s Community Circle began nearly 12 months ago and is has been a delight being involved and seeing the relationships that have developed in Mary’s life and how her well-being has improved.
The purpose of Mary’s circle is to reconnect her with her faith community and twelve months ago the people that were in Mary’s life were people who are paid to be with her.
However great Mary’s support is, we recognise that quality often comes from natural relationships based on shared interests and knowing that giving and connecting with others supports our well-being.
Mary now goes to church each week, has visitors from church that come and see her at home, has members of her parish that are part of her circle meetings, is a valued member of the church’s Welcome Club and has also started knitting at the local Knit and Natter group.
The outcomes for Mary are wonderful, her week is full of things that give her quality in her life and she now has more friendships. The increase in Mary’s well-being is clear to those that know Mary well and we have also used the Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Well Being Scale as evidence based data which shows a clear improvement in Mary’s well-being through the time she has had her circle.


The success of Mary’s circle has been achieved through the commitment of the staff that support her, being part of the circle meetings, contributing their ideas, reflecting on what has worked and hasn’t worked for Mary.  Over the months staff have reflected on what matters to Mary at church, learned what good support looks like and have been intentional in developing relationships with other members of the parish.  Staff have welcomed new people into Mary’s life and supported her circle journey.

Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University has been involved in Mary’s circle as part of the Big Society research project, which is discovering how disabled people with a learning disability are participating in their communities.  Katherine says of Mary’s circle;

“I think that Mary’s story 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 and all credit to the staff in enabling that too”

When we start a Community Circle, there may be anxieties from the staff team about why the circle is needed.  A previous blog I wrote identified some of the assumptions staff may make about a circle, here’s an extract;


“Is the circle being developed because staff haven’t done a great job?”

One of the benefits of a Community Circle is supporting good communication between people, bringing people together to think, share ideas and support decision making. Everyone has an opportunity to contribute and is involved in the decision making process. A Community Circle celebrates the good stuff that is being achieved and helps support the person to achieve the life they want. The Circle supports family, friends and paid staff to come together around a common purpose, have focused conversations that lead to action.

As Michelle Livesley says, “There may be an automatic assumption that the circle has been set up because the service isn’t working, therefore blame is attached and people might be less willing to engage positively. However, one circle I was involved in a few years ago quickly established just how good the person’s life was due to the great support he was getting”

You can read the full blog here

Mary’s circle enabled staff to think together, share ideas and draw on own networks to achieve its purpose for Mary, to celebrate what was working well for Mary and to develop actions that supported her to reconnect at church.  As facilitator for Mary’s circle I am very grateful for the support and contributions which the staff have made.

Damian, Team Leader, says of Community Circles “Circle are a good forum for staff to suggest ideas for better supporting the person and supports staff in connecting people to their local community”

Mary tells us what difference her circle has made to her


“Friends as well again, I speak to people when I go to church”


Cath Barton

Community Circles Connector in Rochdale

Alternative Futures Group