Wiltshire volunteers needed to help keep convicted sex offenders on right track

Angus Macpherson

Angus Macpherson

First published in News
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More Wiltshire volunteers are needed for a scheme which holds convicted sex offenders to account and radically reduces re-offending.

Circles South West, established in 2010, is part of a wider UK network which supports sex offenders once they are released from prison.

It is expanding and needs new volunteers to meet offenders, reducing social isolation and loneliness which can result in new crimes.

Volunteers can hold sex offenders 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, which could result in the offender returning to prison.

Jo Burden, Circles South West’s project director, said: “Our volunteers do something amazing. Their involvement helps protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from sexual harm.

“They do this by providing a circle of support and accountability which both monitors and supports sexual offenders in their community.”

A circle is a group of four or five volunteers who meet with the offender in a local community venue.

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 good references and will be subject to checks. They will also receive training and supervision from professionals.

Ms Burden said: “We would identify a suitable community venue, we would risks assess it and they would meet there. We use community venues like church halls and sometimes we would meet in a probation venue if there’s a very high risk.”

Angus Macpherson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, has given £78,700 to Circles South West from his Innovation Fund to support 12 sex offenders by recruiting and training 60 volunteers who will be managed by a part-time co-ordinator.

He said: “I admire the work which Circles South West does to support sex offenders when they return from prison to their community.

“My funding will help such people to find training or a job, improve their social and life skills and turn away from offending.”

To volunteer, or for more information, contact Circles South West at info.circlessw@gmail.com; visit www.circles-uk.org.uk or call Jo Burden on 07717 442413.

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