Circles of Support and Accountability

Wednesday 25 October 2017, 2.00PM

Speaker(s): James McCarthy, North Yorkshire Co-ordinator

Join James McCarthy, the North Yorkshire Co-ordinator of Circles, to find out more about the work that they do and about volunteering opportunities. 


Who we are and what we do

Our mission is to keep communities safe by reducing the risk of future sexual offences. Our goal is no more victims. We do this by recruiting people from the local community to provide support and accountability to those people who have thoughts about or have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour towards others.

Why do this?

99,609 sexual offences were reported last year, the highest since national records began in 2002, and there has been a 60% increase in reported child sexual abuse in the last 5 years. Emotion without action means nothing. We live in a society where sexual abuse provokes powerful emotional responses within communities. Anger, fear, hatred, grief, denial are all common reactions. It seems like almost every day, a story breaks in the media revealing years of abuse by high profile individuals which went unnoticed or unreported by the institutions they belonged to. Imagine the suffering which could have been prevented if someone had spoken out. The issue isn’t limited to a handful of celebrities or strangers and misfits. 90% of children are abused by someone they know. The risks are all around us and the safety of children and adults living in our communities is the responsibility of all of us.

By local people, for local people

Circles could not exist without community involvement. Geographically Yorkshire, Humberside and Lincolnshire covers more than 8500 square miles. At YHLCOSA we recognise that to be a true community response to sexual abuse it’s paramount that we stay connected to the communities we serve.

Our core members tell us repeatedly that volunteers are the magic ingredient of Circles. The fact that people from the local community are prepared to put time aside to spend time with them is incredibly valuable giving them a sense of involvement, belonging and responsibility for their behaviour that many have never had before.

All our volunteers are community members and the Coordinators work hard to match volunteers to a Circle to ensure it is as reflective of the core members local community as possible. This ensures that the core member learns to engage with a variety of different people that they may meet in everyday life.

Local leadership and responsibility: a joined-up community response to ensuring “no more victims

In each of our 5 areas a local ‘steering group’ is hosted quarterly. Steering groups consist of a variety of people local to that operating area. Representatives from Police, Probation, victim services, faith groups, community groups, universities, current Circles volunteers are all invited.

The steering groups discuss specific local operational issues. For instance, where should the next Circle be prioritised, or why is a particular area not asking for a Circle?

The journey so far

Circles of Support and Accountability started out as a Mennonite church project in a town in Ontario, Canada, in 1994. Realising that a sex offender called Charlie was about to be released into the community, church volunteers formed a group to support him. The method soon expanded across Canada, where studies demonstrated a 70 per cent reduction in reoffending rates. The Quakers brought the approach to the UK in 2002 and since then 15 Circle projects have been established across the UK.

YHLCOSA is run by a team of professional and highly experienced staff, and has an active and informed Board of Trustees providing governance and financial oversight. We are quality assured and audited by Circles UK ( on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.


Location: Wentworth College, W/N/202

Admission: Free