People keep people safe. Not services, not funding, not governments, people...

Ordinary people, people who understand and people who are committed.


- Sharon Bourke


What is a circle of support?


‘Circles of support’ or ‘intentional networks’ are different names but have the same meanings. Circles are a group of people who are intentionally invited to come together in friendship and support of a person with a disability, for the purposes of protecting their interests into the future.   They can also be there to support the focus person to achieve their dreams and aspirations in leading a full and inclusive life.  


A circle of support is about making positive change by taking action, and about sharing ideas and a strategy to move a vulnerable person’s life forward. It’s about safeguarding a vulnerable person from the isolation and loneliness common among people with a disability. Most importantly, they’re about developing enduring relationships with people who love and care about the disabled person and their family.

Why have a circle of support?


The reasons people would choose to have a circle of support are many and varied, and would often be because there’s a need to bring more people into a person’s life so that they can have a fully inclusive and good life. It’s important to be clear about the purpose of bringing people together, as this will help when thinking about who to invite to be in the circle. Be clear about who’s at the center of the circle of support.  It might be the parents. It might be the person with a disability. Either is okay, but it’s important to be very clear about who is at the heart of the circle.


People in circles can change over time, because life is constantly evolving. New people also join the circle as new lifestyle goals emerge.  Having allies to walk alongside the family and/or the person with a disability gives a strength that is otherwise hard to find on your own.

Who would be in a circle of support?


This depends on the purpose of the circle of support, and is closely aligned with the dreams, aspirations and interests of the person at the center of the circle. For example, the focus person may be interested in folk music, so find someone who is part of a folk music club and ask that person to join the circle.   It is in asking that we find the right people to join the circle of support and people are often very willing to be there when asked.

    A few facts

  • A circle of support is made up of people who care about the person with a disability and their family

  • They can range in size from three to a large group of 10

  • The members of a circle of support are not necessarily paid to be there

  • YES, it is hard for all parents to ask people for help. But when you do, the rewards are worth it

  • YES, most people are pleased to be asked, some may have even been waiting to do something in support of you and your family member

  • Circles of support, intentional networks or support networks all have the same meaning, which is to bring people together that will support the vision of a good and ordinary life for the person in the community

  • A circle of support can assist a person to create a positive vision for their future, and identify and work towards the person’s dreams and aspirations

  • Every circle of support is different, as is the purpose for bringing people together

  • Circles can be excellent sources of support. A circle can really help with planning and making life happen.


How does a circle of support work? 

A Circle or Intentional Network:


  • Meets regularly, often once a month, but more -or less often, depending on what you feel works best for you

  • Has members chosen by you

  • Helps you plan things in your life

  • Helps problem-solve

  • Helps get stuff done

  • Provides support, encouragement and, generally, the help you need to meet your goals and dreams (Neighbours Inc, 2006)

For me to be happy and not lonely, I need help from good friends, so I have a circle of support and they’re called ‘The Young Champs’. The Young Champs is a group of very special people who’re there for me.  Every two months, we have a meeting and I organise them.  I wrote them a letter asking if they could help me with my goals. I wanted people who were funny, helpful, friendly, honest, supportive and smart. We have dinner that I cook and then have our meeting and talk about ME. I’m very blessed to have good people in my life. They’re all there for me and it feels good. My Champs make sure that I’m in charge of my life and are there to help me. My Champs and my family are all behind me so that makes me feel very strong. They really listen to me.  


- Alex Snedden,


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