Circles of support and circles of friends

Circles were developed to support individuals to become reconnected in the community, and to make friendships and relationships.

A circle of support is sometimes called a circle of friends. Circles were developed to support individuals to become connected in the community, and to make friendships and relationships. Circles are a natural process for most of us, when we are troubled we call on our family and friends to share our pain or joy and to help us think through what we can do. For people who are disempowered like people with learning disabilities this does not happen. 

As individuals and as families they may become isolated and hence have very few people around them. It is in these circumstances that circle of friends/support need to be developed.

Circles are a group of people who meet together to help somebody achieve what they would like to do in their life. It might be, for example, about expanding their social circle, somewhere to live, a leisure activity or a holiday. The circle holder should be in charge and decides who they want to invite, what they talk about and where the circle should meet.

Those with greater needs will usually require support from their family or someone who knows them really well to ensure the circle meetings are run and maintained. Circles can be as small or as large as required.

In order to develop a circle, a relationship map is created with the individual to identify the people in their life. Family members are invited to look at who could be brought into the circle.  This commitment is unpaid, as ‘friendship’ should not constitute a paid relationship.

Different kinds of circles

Circles of Support

Many people’s relationship maps are made up almost entirely of family and paid support.  In this event, these paid connections are asked to support the person to make connections with other people.  These new connections are nurtured and eventually invited to join the circle of friends.

Planning Circles

Like circles of support, planning circles bring a group of people together, all chosen by the person with a disability, to meet regularly in helping the person to identify and achieve their personal goals. It is a partnership, and a commitment made to the person by everybody in their life, paid or unpaid, to help them fulfil their desires.

Circles in the workplace

Circles of support in the workplace ensure that the person is well supported to independently do their work, help make the workplace a pleasant place to be, and develop opportunities to become part of the life of the workplace.

Circles in the Classroom

Circles in the classroom help disabled children in mainstream schools, helping them become connected with their peer group. Other pupils, support staff and teachers may all be involved.