Assessments, interventions, the Wolvercote Clinic and Circles: the beginnings of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation

26 August 2022

Since The Lucy Faithfull Foundation was founded in 1992, we’ve focused on preventing sexual abuse by working with people who have or might harm. We started out delivering treatment programmes for offenders, including at the residential Wolvercote Clinic, the only one of its kind in the UK. Though the programme would close in 2002, its innovative approach to abuse prevention continues to inform our work today and set us apart from other child protection charities.

This special anniversary blog post is the first in a three-part series on the history of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, celebrating our achievements, evolution and growth over the past thirty years. You can find out more about our history in our anniversary booklet and read parts two and three of the series.

Assessments and interventions (1992 – present day)

Working closely with people who have offended to understand their sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards children can give valuable insight and evidence into how to prevent future offending in their specific case, but also in society more widely. In the specific case, we learn about a person’s triggers and the risk they pose, providing the basis for judgements on what safeguarding measures are needed. And more widely, we learn about how to protect children and the different protections that can be placed in different settings.

We’ve delivered assessments and interventions since 1992, including at the residential Wolvercote Clinic, where we worked with dozens of offenders each year. Since then our services have developed and expanded, to include case consultancy.

We serve the whole of the UK and our staff come from various backgrounds, disciplines and statutory agencies, and have a range of skills and qualifications. This includes former probation officers, social workers, psychologists and psychotherapists, which means we have skills and knowledge from a wide range of disciplines under one roof.

Our specialist team provides advice, risk assessments and intervention for male and female adults who have, or who are alleged to have, committed a sexual offence against a child. We also provide advice, risk assessments and intervention for young people and children from the age of five, who have engaged in, or who are alleged to have engaged in, harmful or inappropriate sexual behaviour. We also provide protective parenting assessments for non-offending partners and other family members, as well as impact and vulnerability assessments for victims of child sexual exploitation.

We are approved by the Legal Aid Agency to provide expert witness testimony to the Family Courts and we accept referrals from a range of organisations, including children’s services, police forces, sports governing bodies and religious organisations, and provide direct access service to members of the public who can make self-referrals.

The Wolvercote Clinic (1995 – 2002)

The forward-thinking Gracewell Clinic, run by Ray Wyre in Birmingham from the late 1980s, was successful in treating sexual offenders, particularly high-risk offenders, but closed in 1993. A combination of political support and research showing positive treatment outcomes led to the opening of a new clinic, Wolvercote, in 1995.

During its seven years, Wolvercote Clinic assessed and treated 112 offenders and assessed 193 more. In 1999, it received accreditation status from the Prison Service’s Accreditation Panel. Safeguarding and local involvement were key aspects of the clinic, and liaison arrangements were set up with both the Metropolitan Police and Surrey Probation Service. The clinic regularly received visits and placements from researchers and child protection organisations across Europe and the world.

Residents were assessed over four weeks to understand risk and treatment needs, including by completing psychometric tests to identify the presence of offending-related problems. They then stayed in the clinic for up to 12 months, and in some cases up to 15 months, with individual and group treatment work.

The residents’ experience at the Wolvercote Clinic was strongly skills-based. This included skills in recognising and dealing with emotional and physical risk factors, managing painful feelings, developing social and life skills, developing positive thinking skills, developing assertive behaviours, intimacy skills, sexual fantasy management, and enhanced thinking skills. Many residents had engaged in previous treatment programmes, which had some impact on offence minimisation and attitudes towards children and victims, but they needed additional work in affective, and interpersonal areas as well.

Generally, over three-quarters of the men who entered treatment with specific risk factors showed a major improvement post-treatment, indicating positive learning. Though there was an expectation that a new location could be found, when the Wolvercote site was sold, the clinic closed in 2002. No similar programme has since been implemented in the UK – but the learning from this one has been taken forward in many of our other projects.

Circles of Support and Accountability (2002 – 2017)

The stigma around child sexual abuse can mean that services to help adults not offend or re-offend are limited and not well known, but it’s vital to find the best ways to protect children. Circles of Support and Accountability was originally set up in Canada to help violent and sexual offenders on release from prison, aiming to prevent reoffending. The ‘circle’ consists of volunteers in a local community who offer emotional and practical support to an offender and also scrutinise their attitudes and behaviour to hold them to account.

Brought to the UK in 2002, funding from the Home Office allowed pilot projects to begin and we provided Circles to residents of the Wolvercote Clinic resettling in the community following the closure of the clinic that year. Each circle of 4-6 volunteers was supported by a paid professional known coordinator who provided regular supervision to the circle and is the formal link between the volunteers and the statutory agencies.

We ran different pilot projects including with the Metropolitan Police, working with British nationals deported back to the UK, and with the West Midlands probation service.

Over 15 years we set up and delivered 74 circles involving around 345 volunteers and we supported the development of other Circles projects across the UK. We stopped providing this work in 2017 but the programme continues to be delivered by providers across the country, all overseen by the umbrella body, Circles UK.

Want to know more?

You can find out more about our history in our anniversary booklet and read parts two and three of the series. 

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