We previously spoke with Tammy Banks, CEO of re:shape, a programme that worked with those at risk of causing sexual harm. Despite this project no longer being operational due to funding, we hope that this work can continue to inspire future innovative practice.
A holistic approach to preventing sexual harm
With more than 100,000 sexual offences being reported in 2018, the highest since national records began in 2002, calls for an approach with the aim of reducing re-offending were apparent. It also highlighted the necessity for communities to be equipped with programmes that not only best support victims but also those at risk of causing sexual harm as well as rehabilitated offenders.
Thus, the mission of re:shape was to keep communities safe by reducing the risk of sexual harm. Its flagship approach was the ‘Circle of Support and Accountability’ service. The idea of the programme originated in Canada in 1994 and has since been introduced to the UK after studies demonstrated a 70% reduction in re-offending rates when using the ‘Circles’ approach.
By using the Circle of Support and Accountability, re:shape aimed to prevent sexual harm re-offending through volunteer partnerships with statutory organisations. To do this, the programme brought the community together through statutory services such as the National Probation Service and Police to ‘be the change’. With support from such services and volunteers, re:shape offered interventions to people who were a potential risk, delivered education and awareness sessions, and provided tailored services.
re:shape was funded by a combination of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the National Probation Service, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Project and was mainly available in Yorkshire and the Humber, Lancashire, Cumbria, and Lincolnshire.
Service users were referred by different sources but high-risk offenders were mainly referred by Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Upon referral, the level of risk was determined through an initial assessment which would determine the intervention introduced. Each individual intervention was then informed by the service user, volunteers, re:shape, and statutory partners. This information sharing was continued with all parties prior to, during, and post-intervention. There were three types of interventions available:
- One to One: a trained coordinator worked on a one-to-one basis with a service user by prioritising three main areas: assessment of risk, risk management, and future focus. The primary goal of the one-to-one was to ensure the individual was not socially isolated or emotionally lonely.
- Paired Mentoring: where the individual did not require intense support and monitoring, the paired mentoring programme was more suitable. The programme allocated experienced volunteers to work on a two-to-one basis with the service user and helped them with specific services in the communities. Such services included employment/disclosure, developing appropriate relationships, housing, and developing social and community networks etc.
- Circles of Support and Accountability: a group of four to six volunteers form a ‘Circle’ around one core member (a person at risk of causing sexual harm but motivated not to) by meeting weekly and supporting the core member. The version of ‘Circles’ used by re:shape consisted of two circles. The inner-circle comprised four to six trained community volunteers and the core member. It was responsible for societal support and for holding the core member accountable for his/her ongoing risk management. The outer circle included the professionals in this process who provided professional advice, guidance, and services. Each outer circle was different depending on the core member but it tended to include representatives from probation, police, housing support, and mental health services.
An evaluation of re:shape showed a very positive impact. Of the 64 circles of support implemented, only one core member had sexually re-offended (it was a non-contact offence). There was also evidence of a significant reduction in re-offending and harming by all core members.
Many core members praised the programme’s ability to establish a positive change in their feelings. Particularly, feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness, struggles with problematic sexual thoughts, speaking inappropriately about sexual matters, emotional loneliness, feelings of inadequacy in relationships, and low self-esteem.
Statutory partners also praised the importance of re:shape being embedded into statutory services. They agreed it had made a significant positive difference. The programme helped them to better understand the users as well as to better involve the communities in the rehabilitation and support of the core members.
Ultimately, re:shape filled a service and intervention gap for people at risk of causing sexual harm. Such a gap previously existed because the sensitive nature of sexual harm usually assumes tough punishment, separation, and alienation of potential offenders from society. In taking an evidence-based, community-centric view, re:shape bucked this trend.
This project is no longer operational due to funding. You can read more about this here: https://www.clinks.org/community/blog-posts/end-road-lessons-and-reflections-charity-preventing-sexual-harm.
This case-study was compiled by Michael Farinu in 2019 and updated by Maysa Clam in 2022