MORE volunteers are needed in Salisbury and across south Wiltshire for a scheme which holds convicted sex offenders to account and, its supporters claim, radically reduces re-offending.
The project, Circles South West, has been so successful it has had its funding extended but it still needs more helpers to enable it to grow.
Jo Burden, Circles South West project director said: “Our volunteers help protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from sexual harm. The idea is to provide a ‘circle’ of support and accountability which both monitors and supports sex offenders in their community.”
Angus McPherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, has awarded Circles South West funding from the £1m Innovation Fund which was created to support projects which fight crime and support victims of crime throughout the county.
Ms Burden explained that a Circle is a group of four or five volunteers who meet regularly with the convicted offender.
“Most sexual offenders are released from prison back into our communities and many experience social isolation and loneliness which can result in further offending,” she said.
“A Circle can help prevent further offending by offering support, but also by holding the person to account by challenging attitudes and behaviours that signal a risk to the community. Any concerns are reported to the appropriate authority and acted upon. This could result in the offender returning to prison.”
Circles' volunteers tend to be community-minded adults of all ages, from all walks of life. Volunteers need to be non-judgemental, emotionally stable and approachable people who have life experience and a mature outlook. All volunteers must pass an assessment, have excellent references and will be subject to checks. All volunteers receive training, support and supervision from professionals.
As one offender said: “For me change was slow and difficult but by working with my Circle over a period of time I feel it helped me avoid having any further victims”.
One volunteer said: “Circles helps build a safe community because it involves community members, people who aren't part of the professions, getting involved and volunteering.
“The advice I would give to someone who might be wondering if they might make a good volunteer is, it is only normal to be a bit worried. Once you have started you will gain confidence about doing it.”
To volunteer, or for more information, contact Circles South West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sara Radford on 07771 333553.