The idea came about through our local work in developing Person Centred Planning and our national work with other organisations supporting people to live more independently. We know that a lot of people with learning disabilities/autism are less likely to have strong family/friend networks around them to provide support in crisis. Because people are more independent now and less reliant on full time support (which is great!) they are also more likely to me lonely, less connected with friends/family and getting less supported from local services.
Many of the vulnerable people we see at Speakup did not socialise with each other unless they were volunteering at our offices or on special occassions when family or friends organise events.
Our project was funded by the Peoples Health Trust and it was co-produced with a large group of local people with learning disabilities, autism or both.
They were supported to develop the project and their Friendship Circle, working with them to produce good practice which we are sharing with other areas of the country.
Before we started the project we asked people to fill out a questionnaire about how lonely they felt and did they have any friends.
We also asked these vulnerable people to do a friendship circle, which showed who their friends were.
Many of the self-advocates said that they often felt lonely and would like to do more things, especially on a weekend. The project has been a huge success and people are now more able, less isolated and have built some real friendships, meeting up with people outside of these events.
Through this project, people were supported by two peer experts to help develop their friendship circle, find solutions to problems and enable them to be more active and better support in a crisis.
We are sharing some of our resources and information which can help other areas set up Friendship Circles Projects.
Resources and tools you can use
Here are a few of the resources and tools we put together through the project. You can use these to help you set up a Friendship Circle with someone:
Friendship Circle Template – This is a blank Friendship Circle which you can add names and photos to
Friendship Circle 1 Page Profile – Tells everyone in the Circle about the person
Activities Check Sheet – A helpful guide to planning activities with the person
Friendship Circle Review – Use this to see what is making a difference to the person and look at what could be better
Remember that Friendship Circles are about the person in the center and how to help them to do more in their life and be less isolated with the support of other people. Friendship Circles might not be for everyone. It is important to work with the person to make sure they understand and want the Circle to be set up and that it has the right people in it.