Circles of Support

The roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the mental health reform environment in NSW has created an imperative for considering better ways to support people living with mental health conditions to exercise ‘choice and control’. MHCC has been exploring the concept of ‘Circles of Support’ as a potentially effective mechanism to further support people living with mental health conditions in the community.

Literature Review and Sector consultation

MHCC conducted a literature review of the national and international evidence available on Circles of Support and reviewed the different environments in which Circles have been established. Following the literature review, MHCC conducted consultations and interviews seeking input from people with lived experience, their families, carers, peer and mental health support workers and other stakeholders. We asked about the potential for Circles to promote recovery for people living with mental health conditions.

Participants expressed resounding support for the concept and the value that Circles could bring to the lives of people living with mental health conditions. One participant stated “I wish I had a circle”.  It was seen that a key benefit of Circles was creating a space in which the person at the centre and their families could maintain and foster relationships into the future, which could alleviate isolation for consumers and carers who have few social supports. A primary concern raised by consultation participants was regarding Circles not operating according to the values that underpin the concept and as a result inadvertently causing harm. The facilitator’s role was seen as vital in ensuring that Circles operate ethically.

Project outcomes

As a result, MHCC is now looking to develop a one-day face-to-face professional training targeted at the community managed mental health and human services workforce, working with people living with psychosocial disability in the community. The training will be designed to equip attendees with the skills required to act as a facilitator of Circles of Support. Such necessary skills include facilitation and goal setting skills, knowledge of Supported Decision Making (SDM) theory and its application as well as conflict management and resolution.

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