To mark 10 years of Circles in England and Wales this year’s event in November was a variation from the norm. An internal event rather than an open conference, to thank the Circles volunteers and to recognise an extraordinary decade of Circles provision and development since the first tentative Circle of Support and Accountability were set up by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, and Hampshire and Thames Valley Circles Project back in 2002.
One hundred volunteer and staff delegates drawn from the Projects came together for presentations, workshops, national volunteer awards and the celebratory 10 Years of Circles cake cutting. Helen Drewery of Quaker Peace and Social Witness who played such a key role in bringing Circles from Canada to England was helped to reflect on the early days by our Chair for the day, Simon Fanshawe OBE, and Ruth Mann, a highly respected researcher, and senior manager with the National Offender Management Service provided an overview on some recent initiatives by which to better understand and approach this vital task of reducing sexual reoffending. The latest tool for getting our message across, a 10 minute DVD featuring tributes to the work of Circles by a number of knowledgeable and eloquent people, including Esther Rantzen ,founder of ‘’Childline’, and Lord Ian Blair, a previous Chief of the Metropolitan Police, was launched to great acclaim. It will be used by Projects to help in their volunteer recruitment. And with the number of volunteers involved in Circles now having reached 660 across the 11 Projects, and more Circles than ever, there was a real feeling that Circles have now truly come of age.
There is no place for complacency in this work to better protect children, young people and vulnerable adults, but with such a decade of year on year growth in the service; national awards won by many Projects and Circles UK; the publication of a book and numerous articles in journals and the press, and with the growing evidence of the contribution Circles make towards reducing sexual reoffending, the Circles 10 year birthday cake, and party balloons were surely justified!