Pioneering project to rehabilitate people who have committed sex offences

13 July 2023

This month, we launch a trailblazing project to rehabilitate people who have committed sexual offences. Through Circles of Support and Accountability, we’ll be working with people in the West Midlands to help them to not offend again.

Each circle includes 4 to 6 trained volunteers from the local community who help to support one person who has sexually offended. The circle provides practical skills and support to the person posing a risk, known as the Core Member, according to their needs.

This might include social skills, finding work or hobbies, or looking for suitable accommodation, which helps reduce the risk of reoffending and limits isolation where offending behaviour often starts. Throughout the process, the Core Member is subject to probation oversight.

Offending isn’t inevitable

Deborah Denis, CEO of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said that Circles is a truly pioneering project. “It firmly places the responsibility to protect communities on the person who poses a risk, rather than on communities to protect themselves,” she said.

Emphasising that preventing harm is the absolute priority, and the entire project is delivered with that in mind, she said that “offending isn’t inevitable – it can be prevented.”

“People who commit sexual offences come from all backgrounds and all walks of life – they are ordinary, everyday people and rarely conform to the stereotypes of monsters,” she added. “Based on our 30 years’ experience we know that many of those who cause harm are concerned about what they’ve done and want to change for the better. Circles can help them do that.”

Volunteers commit to meeting with the Core Member for 12 to 18 months supporting them to recognise unhelpful thoughts, feelings and patterns of behaviour which might link to their risk of offending, and encourage them to develop more healthy strategies.

Volunteers are supported by a professional coordinator, who liaises with other key professionals working with the Core Member, including police, probation, health and housing.

Reducing risk

Adrian McNulty, director of operations at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said that successfully rehabilitating and reintegrating people and creating positive local community connections for people who have sexually offended is key to reducing reoffending. This is because social isolation and emotional loneliness are key factors that increase the risk of sexual harm.

“For many people who have sexually offended, trying to re-settle into the community, particularly following a period of time in prison, can be daunting,” he said. “Circles have proven to be an extremely effective way of reducing the risk of reoffending and volunteers play an enormous role here in protecting children.”

Circles use the principles of restorative justice, in particular a belief in the importance of healthy relationships and an individual’s accountability for what they do and its effect upon others.

With more than 30 years’ experience supporting people who have committed, or at risk of committing, a child sexual offence to stop and stay stopped, we are uniquely placed to deliver a programme of this type. Last year, we received more than 15,600 contacts from people in the West Midlands concerned about their own or someone else’s sexual thoughts or behaviour towards children. We see Circles as a fantastic means to ensuring that children are kept safe from sexual harm, as well as the wider community.

It was the inspiration

Antonia, a previous West Midlands Circle volunteer, said that she started volunteering with Circles to get experience working with people who had committed offences and preventing re-offending; but that what she gained as a volunteer was so much more.

“The experience of being trusted to be part of a reliable support system, getting to know somebody who might struggle with trust and is fearful of rejection, and then watching that person grow and change was brilliant,” she said. “It was also great to work together with other volunteers and professionals who were compassionate and from all walks of life. Overall, it was the inspiration for me to train to be a psychologist.”

“The best part was watching the Core Member make meaningful changes to his life,” she added. “We know from research into sexual offending that social isolation and lack of healthy relationships can increase risk. We got to watch our Core Member improve his social skills and gain confidence in problem solving things like managing triggers and employment and accommodation difficulties.”

And to anyone wondering about getting involved, she had this message: “You won’t regret it and you get lots of training and support. I feel privileged to have been allowed to do it twice.”

We need your help

This amazing project needs volunteers. If you’d like to help protect children and keep communities safe, then you can volunteer to join a circle. Why not come along to an online session to hear more about what’s involved and ask any questions?

Tuesday 22nd August 6pm
Meeting URL:  https://lucyfaithfull.zoom.us/j/85732361554?pwd=UDNoY21pcDRwdTVPVXVRazQwWHJyQT09&from=addon

Meeting ID:  857 3236 1554 | Passcode: 712077

The project covers the West Midlands region, including Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and West Midlands county.

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