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Circles of Support and Accountability: the role of volunteers in helping prevent further victims

Circles of Support and Accountability: the role of volunteers in Ireland in providing support and accountability to individuals who have sexually harmed to live a life free of crime and harmful behaviour

PACE is a one of the many community-based organisation funded by the Irish Probation Service that works in the community with people subject to custodial and/or community sanctions, for a wide range of offences.

One of the community-based initiatives operated by PACE is Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA). CoSA is based on restorative justice principles, assists people who have been convicted of a serious sexual offence(s) in their efforts to live a life free of crime and harmful behaviour. All CoSA participants are living in the community under the supervision of the Probation Service and are assigned a Garda Liaison Officer (Police Officer). These individuals, who are referred to as Core Members, participate in the programme voluntarily.

The aim of the Circle is to prevent further victims of sexual harm. A Circle of Support and Accountability is made up of an Inner Circle of 4-6 Volunteers and an Outer Circle of professionalsworking with the Core Member. This outer circle includes the supervising Probation Officer, a Liaison Garda (Police Officer), other relevant professionals and the CoSA coordinator to collaboratively identify areas of focus for the CoSA that are significant in assisting the core member reduce the risk of further offending.

Overview of the Volunteer Role

The role of the Volunteer is to provide a community of support and accountability which encourages and supports the Core Member to live a life without causing further harm. Volunteers are members of the community who have been selected, screened, trained and placed by PACE CoSA.

Volunteers must be trustworthy, well-balanced people who are committed to the values of restorative justice and the belief in a shared responsibility to protect people in our communities from sexual harm. A circle volunteer will be a mature individual aged 21 years or over.

Since 2015, PACE has trained over 60 volunteers to work with the Circles of Support and Accountability programme. The volunteers work within a circle of between four and six trained volunteers and one Core Member. For many of the Core Members, volunteers are the only other people they engage with them each week who are not being paid to see them. PACE averages five Circles a year, with between 20 and 30 volunteers. The Inner Circle of Volunteers + Core Member is supported by the work of the Outer Circle that consists of the CoSA Coordinator, the Supervising Probation Officer, a Liaison Garda and other relevant professionals.

Useful links:

Volunteer Ireland –

Circle UK –

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