Circles of Support

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We all need to know other people. They may be family, friends, neighbours, people we work with or people who help us sort things out in our lives.

People with learning disabilities often find a circle of support is a good way to make their life better. Circles of support are a group of family, friends and supportive workers who come together to give support and friendship to a person. They help them do the things they would like to do and support in planning for new things in their life. This may be day to day things in a person’s life, such as going out in the evening, meeting new people or going shopping. It may also be big things, such as going on a holiday, finding a job or moving house.

The members of a circle can suggest ideas and help to plan. They can also help someone to meet new people. It is always easier to sort out or plan things together as a group than having to do things by yourself. That is why having a circle can make plannng so much easier.

A circle of support can be very helpful at a time of change such as moving on from school or further education and making plans for the future.

Circle meetings are best when they are friendly and fun. The person who is the focus of the circle may want to send out invites and plan where it will be held and how it will be run. Some people have met in pubs, others may have a BBQ and if you read the case study about Deborah you will see that her circle have a fish and chip supper when they meet up.

In another example of a circle, which is held in the workplace, the circle meet every other month over lunch.

Circles can meet as often as they like - some meet twice a year, others less and if you are planning something major it will probably be more regular.

We have developed some resources to describe what is a circle of support and to help people to get started, that can be downloaded for free. We also have a book called Building Community Through Circles Of Friends which is only available to purchase as a hardcopy.

Christine Towers, Research and Service Development Manager
Christine Towers, Research and Service Development Manager

Christine has over 25 years' experience in developing and managing services for people with learning disabilities. Her interests include older people with learning disabilities, planning with families and developing social and community networks.

Jill Davies, Research Programme Manager
Jill Davies, Research Programme Manager

Jill has 20 years' experience working with children and adults with learning disabilities. She is an RNLD and has a BSc Degree in Psychology. She serves as Chair of the Transition Information Network steering group and is part of the PMLD network.

Christine Burke, Senior Development Manager, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
Christine Burke, Senior Development Manager, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

Christine has over 25 years’ experience within the field of learning disabilities. Within senior management, she has implemented policy, undertaken research, conducted consultancies, supported strategic development and improved service provision.