Evaluating Circles of Support and Accountability: successes, failures and everything in-between

Dwerryhouse, M.E., 2020. Evaluating Circles of Support and Accountability: successes, failures and everything in-between. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Circles of Support and Accountability is an approach that exists to reduce sexual recidivism and encourage reintegration through volunteer support in the community. Prior research has identified that Circles successfully reduce sexual recidivism risk and promote the wellbeing of those receiving support (Core Members). However, there are a small number of instances in which Circles are less effective and Circles have adverse outcomes, for example, Core Members reoffend. The present research was conducted as part of a wider national evaluation into the success and failure of Circles. The research aimed to understand the implications of adverse outcomes and learn from failure. The research also compared success and failure in Circles and further presented variations of successful Circles in practice.

This thesis presents mixed-methods research on Circles of Support and Accountability. The research comprises five empirical research studies and one theoretical chapter. The theoretical chapter presents a conceptualisation of success and failure in Circles utilising the two Core Principles upon which Circles was based: No more victims and No one is disposable. Combined with a review on the literature surrounding success and failure in Circles, it is argued that without agreed-upon definitions of what constitutes a success or failure, the relative success of Circles cannot be measured consistently.

Study 1 aimed to identify factors associated with specific outcomes in Circles and comprised quantitative data from (n=163) Circles to develop a typology of Circles. Results demonstrated that discussion of risk within Circles, can contribute to both Core Member and volunteer dropout from Circles. Whilst the absence of risk-related discussions predicted Circle success, Circles in which Core Members had substance abuse problems were also predictive of dropouts of both Core Members and volunteers. This study holds implications for Circle approaches and identifies the need for more specialist support in Circles where Core Members have additional complex needs.

Study 2 aimed to investigate the component parts of the Dynamic Risk Review (DRR) through a factor analysis of (n=411) baseline DRR scores. The DRR is a risk assessment tool that was designed specifically for use with Core Members in Circles. The factor analysis identified three factors with good reliability termed: Poor Emotional Wellbeing, Sexual Preoccupation and Emotional Identification with Children, Poor Problem Solving and Low Pro-social Engagement. There was also the potential for a fourth factor termed: Anger and Hostility, although this item had poor reliability and requires further development.

Study 3 presented changes in dynamic risk of (n=59) Core Members, as measured by the DRR, over time. Results indicated that DRR scores were significantly reduced after three months on a Circle. However, when data was split between successes and failures, DRR scores showed a significant reduction in DRR scores after six months for Circles with a successful outcome. Study 3 also presented changes in Core Member wellbeing as measured by the WEMWBS, over time. Results demonstrated that Core Member wellbeing was significantly increased after three months on a Circle. When data was split between successes and failures, Core Member wellbeing remained significantly increased after three months for the successful sample of Circles.

Study 4 aimed to explore success and failure in Circles through a qualitative analysis of End of Circle Reports (EOCR). (n=84) EOCR were firstly divided into successes and failures before a thematic analysis was conducted on each data set. Six prominent themes emerged from the data consisting of three from each data set. Successful Circles were characterised through the themes: Trusting Relationships, External Support and Reduced Isolation (through active participation). The failed Circles presented a mirror opposite to the successes and were characterised by the themes: Trust Issues, Negative External Influences and Substance Abuse and Isolation. Results were discussed in relation to prior literature.

Study 5 presents the results of (n=3) qualitative case studies of successful and completed Circles. Interviews were conducted with Core Members, volunteers and coordinators to provide multiple perspectives from those involved within the inner Circle. The case studies present the experiences of three different Core Members who each maintained good working relationships with their volunteers, built trusting relationships and were able to work through any difficulties to continue to receive support. These case studies demonstrate the uniqueness of Core Members, each with their own distinctive needs, alongside the shared needs of trust and support needed to thrive in the community.

The five studies comprise mixed methods research into success and failure in Circles, using the conceptualisation provided in the theoretical chapter. The results of this thesis are discussed in relation to the social exchange theory (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005) and the 13 theory of relational desistance (Weaver & McNeill, 2015). The results of the present research are framed within these theoretical frameworks, with the core theme of this thesis being the importance of human connection. Whilst Circles exist to reduce recidivism, Weaver and McNeill (2015) postulated that social relations are central to the desistance process. Furthermore, social relations have been argued to produce relational goods or relational bads (Weaver & McNeill, 2015). Another recurring theme within the present research was the presence or absence of trust. Trust has been described as a form of social exchange (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005). Taken together, such relational processes are used to help explain success and failure within Circles. The importance of social exchange, trust development and reciprocity are presented as key components in Circles. The work in this thesis is original, making contributions to the literature on Circles, specifically within the area of failure in Circles. It has been argued that Circles should focus upon support rather than accountability in a bid toward reducing recidivism.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Dwerryhouse, M.E.
Date: September 2020
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this thesis for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 17 Jun 2021 16:06
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2021 16:06
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/43114

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