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Howard League blog · 17 Jul 2018

Funding cut for Circles UK will have far-reaching consequences for public protection

A very important meeting is taking place in the Ministry of Justice today. The support grant to Circles UK has suddenly been cut – it was only £256,000.

Circles UK oversees, and provides the framework for, more than 600 local volunteers working in groups across the country who support men convicted of sex offences when they are released from prison.

These members of the public give up their time, undergo training, and then support men for a year or longer when they return to the community.

They are called circles of support because they encircle the man (almost always a man), who almost always has lost any family or other connections and is facing life alone.

Operating ‘Circles of Support and Accountability’ is high-intensity public protection work, at hardly any cost to the taxpayer.

The sudden decision to pull the plug on the national funding is inexplicable… I hope that the minister will see sense

Circles have worked for years and proved to be successful at supporting some of the most challenging men. They have been released and circles of support works to ensure they do not go on to reoffend.

The concept was developed back in 1994 in Canada, specifically to work with medium- and high-risk sex offenders. Volunteers have worked in this country for a couple of decades, quietly and successfully.

Evaluations in Canada, in various European countries and in the UK have shown that recidivism is reduced. It’s not a magic bullet, but if the patient and skilled work of tenacious volunteers can prevent victims of sex crimes, then it is all to the good.

So the sudden decision to pull the plug on the national funding is inexplicable. Apparently the money will be relocated to residential accommodation, which just means that men convicted of sex offences will be placed in hostels and pretty much left to their own devices.

The consequences of the decision to withdraw funding are far-reaching. Circles play a vital role in enhancing public protection. The probation services in Canada, Ireland and Australia are increasing support for their Circles.

I hope that today the minister will see sense.


  • Mike Kirby says:

    I totally agree. The Perrie Lectures this year were aimed at improving knowledge about the best methods of rehabilitation of men convicted of sexual offences and circles featured in the dialogue. It is an effective and low cost method involving the community in the support and management of offenders who if not provided with this level of interaction would be likely to reoffend.

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