Written by Circle Facilitator, Helen Smith


I am so excited to be involved in Community Circles and the plans that we have for the coming months! It got me thinking about where my journey with Circles began, and I went back to 5 years ago when I had the privilege of being asked to set up and facilitate a Circle for Nathan. I had known his parents for a while through my job as Person Centred Planning Coordinator and I was totally honoured when they asked me if I would take on this role. I met up with Nathan’s parents in the pub where we discussed their hopes and dreams for the Circle along with their fears and also how we could ensure that Nathan was involved in his Circle meetings.

Nathan’s parents hoped that the Circle would mean that they could share the responsibility of managing his support package and of making every decision on their own. They hoped for more ideas about how to support Nathan to have the best possible life, and also they hoped to get to a point where they could believe that his fantastic life would continue even when they were no longer in a position to do everything that they do now. They had hopes that Nathan could have his own home, have a paid job and have a good team of PA’s to support him.

As much as there were hopes and dreams, his parents were also feeling a little anxious; what if they invited family members and they said no? What if people didn’t turn up? What if they were left to do all the leg work and answer all the questions? What if the Circle just didn’t meet their expectations?

The first step was for me as a facilitator to start to learn about Nathan and his life and so we arranged for me to meet him and introduce myself.

We also had a good long honest chat about all of the hopes and fears around creating a Circle and agreed the way forward and who should be involved. We decided that we should meet in the café where Nathan was working as this is a place he feels comfortable and is happy.

So…. The date for the first Circle meeting came, the café where we met was buzzing, everyone who was invited came along and the air was filled with chatter, jokes and laughter.

I can honestly still feel goose bumps when I think about that first Circle meeting.

There are a few things that stand out from Nathan’s Circle so far. The first is that it built bridges within the family. Family members were able to talk about things in an open and honest way about what they have found difficult and why they have not always felt comfortable around Nathan. From there, the Circle could talk about how Nathan tells you he is happy or sad and about the things that are important to him and what he enjoys doing. These relationships have continued to strengthen and grow.

The most exciting outcome to date is that Nathan has moved into his own house, supported by his team of Personal Assistants! He has also got paid employment which is hugely important to both him and his family.  A very practical outcome of the Circle is that Nathan’s uncle has built a bike port by Nathan’s house so that he can keep his bike secure. Before the Circle, Nathan did not really see his uncle.

The Circle also had to make a decision about whether or not Nathan should go for his health check – which included a blood test. By talking through past experiences and using everyone’s knowledge and experience about what works best for him, we decided that Nathan would go and meet the nurse and the questions could be answered but that the blood tests were not in Nathan’s best interest.

The Circle means a lot to Nathan and his parents. Without it, these types of challenges would have felt much more difficult. The Circle has meant that the people who care about Nathan are brought together to discuss all aspects of his life, keeping him firmly at the centre of any conversations and decisions.

Our next challenge as a Circle is to look at how we can make ourselves a legal entity to further support and protect the good life that Nathan has got. I’ll let you know how we get on!

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