We spoke with Tammy Banks, Chief Executive Officer of Re:Shape, a programme that works with those at risk of causing sexual harm.
A holistic approach to preventing sexual harm
More than 100,000 sexual offences were reported in 2018, the highest since national records began in 2002. Such an increase calls for an approach with the aim of reducing re-offending at its heart. It also shows the necessity for communities to be equipped with programmes that best support victims, people at risk of causing sexual harm and rehabilitated offenders.
Using the Circle of Support and Accountability, Re:Shape aims to prevent sexual harm re-offending through volunteer partnerships with statutory organisations. The mission of Re:Shape is to keep communities safe by reducing the risk of sexual harm. To do this, the programme brings the community together with statutory services such as the National Probation Service and Police to ‘be the change’. With support from volunteers and statutory services, Re:Shape offers interventions to people who are a potential risk, delivers education and awareness sessions, and provides tailored services.
Its flagship approach is 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.
Re:Shape is funded by a combination of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the National Probation Service, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Project. The programme is mainly available in Yorkshire and the Humber, Lancashire, Cumbria and Lincolnshire. A client can be referred by different sources but high risk offenders are mainly referred by Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Upon referral, the level of risk is determined through an initial core member (the service user) assessment. The core member is very much involved with the planning and the identifying of the aims and objectives for each individual intervention. Each individual intervention planned is informed by the core member, volunteers, Re:Shape, and statutory partners. This information sharing is continued with all parties prior, during and post intervention.
The level of risk determines the interventions introduced. There are three types of interventions available:
- One to One: a trained coordinator works on a one-to-one basis with an individual referred for being a risk of sexual harm. The coordinator works with the individual on three areas: assessment of risk, risk management and future focus. The primary goal of the one-to-one is to ensure the individual is not socially isolated or emotionally lonely.
- Paired Mentoring: where the individual does not need intense support and monitoring, the paired mentoring programme is more suitable. The programme allocates experienced volunteers to work on a two-to-one basis with the at risk individual. The programme helps the individual with specific services in the communities. Such services may include employment/disclosure, developing appropriate relationships, housing, developing social and community networks etc.
- Circles of Support and Accountability: a group of 4-6 volunteers form a ‘Circle’ around one core member (a person at risk of causing sexual harm but motivated not to). Circles meet weekly and support the core member. The version of ‘Circles’ used by Re:Shape consists of 2 circles. The inner circle comprises 4-6 trained community volunteers and the core member. It is responsible for societal support and for holding the core member to account for his/her ongoing risk management. The outer circle includes the professionals in this process. Each outer circle is different depending on the core member but it tends to includes representatives from probation, police, housing support and mental health services. The outer circle provides professional advice, guidance and services.
An evaluation of Re:Shape has shown a very positive impact. Of the 64 circles of support implemented, only one core member has sexually re-offended (it was a non-contact offence). There has also been evidence of a significant reduction in re-offending and harming for all core members. Many core members have 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 have also praised the importance of Re:Shape being embedded into statutory services. They agree it has made a significant positive difference. The programme has helped to better understand the users as well as to better involve the communities in the rehabilitation and support of the core members.
Re:Shape fills a service and intervention gap for people at risk of causing sexual harm. Such 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 bucks this trend.
For more information about Re:Shape contact Tammy Banks via Tammy.Banks@re-shape.org.uk
This case-study was compiled by Michael Farinu in 2019