Circles South East have been working hard to maintain the high level of support it provides those who need it throughout the pandemic.  For more information about our current operations and how we are running these as safely as possible, please see below.

Covid-19 Recovery Strategy and Roadmap 

V5.0 update in line with new national Lockdown 5th Nov – 2nd Dec 2020


Core Messages

  • We will ensure full transparency with the control measures that are introduced and ensure that these are monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.
  • It is possible that the virus and restricted arrangements are going to be around for a long time. Therefore we need to explore all options open to us to move our current contingency arrangements forward and be able to operate under current and future restrictions.  We will ensure that all decisions taken are defensible following rigorous risk assessments.
  • We recognise the government guidance that is in place, however, as guidance moves towards the lifting of restrictions, the charity will make its own assessment of risk (within the guidelines) and will decide when it is appropriate to ask staff, volunteers and service users to make changes to current arrangements. We will not be forced into any delivery situation that we believe places anyone involved in the charity at increased risk.
  • We share CUK’s position that Circle meetings must return to face to face contact as this is the core Circle methodology. However, we do believe following learning and development throughout lockdown that aspects of delivery can now be done differently to the benefit of all involved in the service.
  • We will take learning forward into our practice and ensure that we make changes where appropriate adopting a new ‘blended’ approach to service delivery. To follow through in this area two working groups have been set up – one focusing on Training (covering areas such as initial volunteer training, supplementary volunteer training and professional training packages) and one focusing on Service Delivery (covering areas such as Circle meetings). 

Increasing contact with service users – Circles (adult and youth)

Stage 1 Timeframe:

Previously during formal government lockdown

To be reintroduced if national or local lockdown is reintroduced in CSE areas (‘Very High Alert’ tier).

Stage 2 Timeframe:

July/August 2020 – introduced in some cases

Aug/Sept 2020 onwards – aim to introduce for all cases where possible (‘Medium Alert’ and ‘High Alert’ tiers).

Stage 3 Timeframe:

Not to be introduced across the charity until after December 2020

Timeframe subject to change based on infection rate and further lockdowns

Pilots may take place in specific cases/areas

Responsive to need – with Management approval can consider on a case by case basis


November 2020As a result of the recently announced national lockdown for England (5th Nov – 2nd Dec 2020), CSE will be reverting to Stage 1 Contact for Service Users between these dates. An update will be shared by the Senior Management Team at the start of December once further government guidance has been provided about steps to be taken from 2nd December onwards.

Current arrangements for Service User Contact – during lockdown 5th Nov – 2nd Dec 2020

It is important for us to move towards providing some social/person to person interaction for service users wherever possible as this fits with the core ethos and methodology of Circles and will help to alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness. This will also enable us to check on welfare and wellbeing of service users which can contribute to the management of their risk too.

At CSE we have been able to provide some face to face support via Social Circle meetings during the summer and autumn months, however we are unable to continue to provide this type of support during the National Lockdown between 5th November and 2nd December 2020. Although the government guidelines are a bit unclear in places, and we could potentially find loopholes that allow us to continue face-to-face Circle meetings, we feel it would be morally wrong to do so in light of the ultimate need to lockdown to protect the vulnerable and the NHS. The positive news is that we have worked successfully throughout a previous lockdown period so we should be able to make use of this experience and parts of the strategy we were using then.

We aim to reinstate social contact for Circles as soon as it is deemed appropriate to do so and where restrictions allow.

There may be cases where it is assessed that some face to face contact is essential for a Service User that we are working with. In these cases, the Coordinator and their Line Manager will jointly assess the needs of the Service User and can approve 1-1 outdoor contact in a public area between a volunteer or Coordinator and the Service User. Cases will be assessed on an individual basis and if considering a 1-1 meeting between a volunteer and service user, this should be risk assessed as usual using the ‘Lone Working Risk Assessment’ document and this should be stored in the Circle file.

In place of face to face social meetings, Circles should return to ‘Stage 1’ contact (see flowchart above). This will involve remote contact only, via telephone or video calls.

Training overview

There is a rota in place for Initial Circle Volunteer Training to be delivered on an approx. monthly basis via Zoom – this is the method that will continue to be used within Stage 1 and  2.

CSE is committed to reflecting on and learning from the lockdown period and in particular how we this can assist with training delivery.

Ongoing plans for volunteer training will be driven by the Training Working Group.

The Training Working Group will explore options, issues to consider and ways to overcome barriers as we consider how to best train volunteers and external staff during this period and moving forward. It is likely that various options of face-to-face or ‘blended’ training approaches will be piloted and evaluated over the Stage 2 period.

Service User Assessments overview

There is pressure across the charity to fully assess new service users, and we are mindful that conducting full and effective assessments over the phone has been difficult.

Coordinators are able to conduct face to face assessments with new service users or those who had been referred during lockdown and are awaiting a full assessment

Coordinators should contact the referring officer and ask them to book a suitable room at the Probation office (or police station where relevant) for this assessment to take place. The referring officer should be asked to provide the list of measures that are in place to ensure safe working within the area the Coordinator will be using for the interview. Should a booking for an interview room not be possible, or if the Coordinator is not satisfied with the risk management measures in place, they should discuss this with their line manager.

When conducting face to face assessments, Coordinators should follow guidance in place at the office they are using and ensure they and the service user make use of adequate PPE during the interview. At all times social distancing must be maintained (1m with face coverings being worn). Coordinators may wish to wear a face covering during the meeting even when sitting 2m apart (for example if they have health issues or concerns). If they would like the service user and any other professionals attending to also wear a face covering they should inform them in advance. If this is not possible or the other parties are not happy to do so, the Coordinator should discuss with their line manager to explore alternative options (e.g. cover from another member of staff etc.).

Should the time slot allocated for the interview be insufficient (which may be the case due to the demand for interview rooms at present), the Coordinator should decide whether to continue the assessment at a later date in person or over the phone – whichever is deemed most appropriate for the case.

Should remote video contact be available to conduct assessments then this can also be considered by Coordinators as an alternative to face to face assessments.

Other meetings overview

For all other meetings required as part of staff roles, where possible these should be engaged with remotely via telephone or video conference. This includes things such as MAPPA meetings, professionals meetings, review meetings and volunteer supervision.

There may be cases where Coordinators feel that face to face contact may be appropriate or necessary, and this should be discussed this with line managers who will approve this on a case by case basis.

Post-training meetings for new volunteers should only be completed remotely (via video call) during the national lockdown 5th Nov – 2nd Dec 2020.

End of Circle meetings should take place remotely  (via video or group phone call) during the national lockdown 5th Nov – 2nd Dec 2020. Coordinators to discuss individual cases with their line manager if this will cause difficulties. It may be possible to end the Circle during lockdown and to schedule a later meeting once restrictions are lifted for all parties to come together. It is best to avoid delaying the closure of a Circle if possible due to the impact on Coordinator caseloads and thereby not being able to offer support to service users who are waiting.

At ‘crisis points’ or times where Coordinator intervention is needed to ensure the effective running of the Circle, a 3-way meeting can be arranged with the service user and a professional. This should take place at the professional’s office and should follow the measures in place for service user assessments.


A lot of work may have gone into scheduling Circles to start whilst restrictions allowed. If there are Circles scheduled to start during the national lockdown period, Coordinators should discuss this with their line managers for guidance on individual cases. If possible it would be good for new Circles to start, even if remotely, during this period, with a view to moving to Stage 2 contact when restrictions allow.

Stage 3 update

Development of the Stage 3 delivery model is to be informed by a new short-term working group – the Service Delivery Working Group. Decisions about changes to processes will then be reviewed by the Service User Engagement Group, Senior Management Team and the Board of Trustees.

Further guidance will be issued to all staff, volunteers, service users and contract managers prior to Stage 3 contact being implemented. This will include guidance about Circle meetings, supervision, reviews, training, and professional/other meetings.

Pilots may take place in specific cases/areas before being rolled out across the charity.

Responsive to need –  Stage 3 contact will be considered on a case by case basis in consultation with line managers.


Non-Circles delivery within CSE

For projects that fall outside of the adult or youth Circle delivery model, CSE staff should seek guidance from their line manager about expectations for individual project delivery during Stage 1, 2 and 3.

The essence of delivery at both stages should translate to other projects but details may need to be confirmed by the SMT.

 Stage 2 Quick reference table – Current approach – NATIONAL LOCKDOWN 5th NOV – 2nd DEC 2020

Stage 3 update due December 2020