Circles of Support

On Tuesday we attended a conference with a group of MPs and people from voluntary and third sector organisations from Bavaria to discuss Circles of Support. The Foundation has a long standing relationship with this group, who are trying to improve the services and supports available to people with learning disabilities in Germany.

They wished to hear more about how circles can help people with learning disabilities to be more independent, lead richer and more person centered lives and the different types of circles people use. I gave a presentation about the positive benefits of circles of support and the key features people needed to be aware of to manage their own circles. Also key to the presentations was first-hand experience of two people with learning disabilities who have circles themselves.

I am a part of David Hunt’s circle which helps him achieve his goals: to stay living in his own home, to be part of the community, and to be free to make choices. Hanifa Islam, who has worked at the Foundation for the past seven years, also has an employment circle of support consisting of people from the organisation who support her to: maintain links with different departments, provide a varied and changing workload to broaden her skills, and to encourage a social aspect to her working life. Presentations from Hanifa and I were then followed by a Q&A session where the attendees could ask for further detail of how circles have impacted on David and Hanifa’s lives.

The attendees commented on how useful it was to hear case studies and examples of the power of circles and to learn more about how circles are used by different people. Although circles are not as widespread as we may hope, they are increasing in number and are becoming more recognised by local authorities not only as a benefit for the persons’ quality of life but as a potential cost saving to an the stretched social care system.

We hope that this interest in circles continues and that the efforts of people like Hanifa and David who help to spread the word about how circles can make a difference, will inspire others to develop their own support systems.