Sex abuse victims slam lottery-funded charity that asks volunteers to drink tea with PAEDOPHILES to ‘stop them getting lonely’
- EXCLUSIVE: The Circles UK is looking for people to drink tea with pedophiles
- It wants people to commit to spending time with sex offenders on a regular basis
- Last year it received a £2,040,394 grant from the Big Lottery Fund for its work
- Sianne Mann, 37, who was abused as a child, says funding should help victims
A charity is looking for people to befriend paedophiles to stop them getting lonely, MailOnline can reveal.
The Circles UK is looking for sensible people with a ‘mature outlook’ to commit to spending time with sex offenders on a regular basis after they leave prison.
Volunteers spend around an hour a week with the paedophiles, drinking cups of tea and taking part in activities while holding them to account for their views and actions.
The charity is advertising for volunteers on its website. Last year it received a £2,040,394 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
The Circles UK is looking for sensible people with a ‘mature outlook’ to commit to spending time with sex offenders on a regular basis after they leave prison. Pictured is its website
But the project has attracted criticism from survivors of child abuse who say it is up to the police and the government, rather than volunteers, to protect the public.
Sianne Mann, 37, was abused as a child by her babysitter’s boyfriend and bravely waived her anonymity in the hope of helping victims come forward.
She said it was concerning to hear The Circles UK was opening a branch in her home county of Suffolk and said she believed no paedophile could truly be rehabilitated.
Victim Sianne Mann, 37, was shocked to learn about the charity
She said: ‘I have to say I am shocked to learn the lottery is funding a project like this, it should be helping the victims, not the abusers.’
The mother of one said: ‘I think this is putting too much responsibility onto the volunteers. Good on the people volunteering to befriend them but these offenders need psychiatric help – and not from everyday people off the street.’
‘I would say it’s Government’s responsibility not the charity’s in my opinion.’
She added: ‘People like my abuser don’t deserve to be allowed back into society.’
The Circles UK said it could not comment.
A spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund defended their involvement with the project and said: ‘The Circles UK programme aims to create safer communities and seeks to reduce re-offending rates. Circles UK is one of the 12,000 projects we fund every year, all with the aim of improving people’s lives and communities.
‘Our experienced funding staff follow a robust process when assessing grants. This includes a thorough evidence based assessment, which Circles UK was able to provide.’
Ms Mann’s abuser called her his ‘special girl’ and singled her out while looking after her at her family home in Stowmarket in Suffolk, when she was just seven years old.
‘He would take me upstairs to the bedroom or follow me up as I was going for the toilet, anything to get me away from the babysitter,’ she said.
‘To everybody else he was a normal lad that was polite, he used his pleases and thank-yous. Nobody would have known any different than his first impressions, he was a nice, quiet lad that wasn’t causing any problems,’ she said.
She revealed it wasn’t until she started at secondary school did she realise what had happened to her.
‘I didn’t know what he had done to me was wrong until I started learning about sex education at secondary school, then it suddenly clicked and it really confused and upset me,’ she said.
The ordeal cast a lasting shadow across Ms Mann’s childhood and into her teenage years where she ‘acted out’ and got into trouble with the police.
Ms Mann (pictured as a child) was shocked to hear The Circles UK was opening a branch in her home county of Suffolk and said she believed no paedophile could truly be rehabilitated
‘I was completely messed up because of it, it affected me into my school years then I got a criminal record for silly things and then it’s very hard to go from that straight into a job,’ she said.
And now, even years after the abuse took place, Ms Mann said it had left a lasting impact.
She said: ‘It has been difficult. I would rather die than be abused by him again. It worries me to think these people are out in society.’
But the future is looking brighter for Ms Mann, who is now studying psychology part-time. She said she hopes to train as a professional councillor to help others.
Circles UK runs groups across Britain and more than 800 people are volunteers.
Last year the identity of one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles was uncovered after friends noticed she had been given a Christmas card from The Circles UK.
But despite criticism, the project and volunteers insist they are acting in the welfare of the community
The only paedophiles allowed on the programme are those who have shown ‘remorse’, the organisation says.
Ms Mann said the government not volunteers should rehabilitate paedophiles
An anonymous volunteer revealed that despite the stereotypical profile of an offender, they actually came from all walks of life.
He said: ‘It isn’t just shifty men lurking around playgrounds. There really is no stereotype to what they look like or what backgrounds they come from. You see all sorts of people.
‘I have come across people who are middle-class to others with special needs. Some people have been in the care system or abused themselves.’
‘It takes quite a lot of stamina to be a volunteer and you have to hear some hard truths which can be tough.
‘But the way I see it is, we are there to stop any further victims.’
The controversial scheme was first devised in Canada in 1994 and moved its way to the UK in 2005.
A volunteer who wishes to be known as Laurence, a retired head teacher, estimates he has worked with more than 20 ex-sex offenders since becoming a volunteer.
He said the paedophiles often ask him what is he doing there and whether he is getting paid.
He said: ‘We say, ‘Well, for two reasons. One is we want to prevent further victims being created and second we want to see if we can help you to change your life,’ and they find that quite difficult to come to terms with for a while.’
‘The more they talk and tell us things about themselves and the more we relentlessly go back every week and are not put off by whatever they tell us, eventually the trust gets built up and that is quite extraordinary and very empowering.’
Another volunteer Alethea has been working in the South West and said she viewed her role as helping children from coming for further harm.
Furious parents last week ashed out at a different charity that hosted a family fun day to help rehabilitate paedophiles. No convicted sex offenders were at the event
She said: ‘We meet once a week, carefully balancing our role of supporter and ‘watchdog’. Most sexual offenders are released from prison back into our communities.
‘Many experience social isolation and loneliness which can result in further offending.
‘A circle can prevent this by working with the offender to support and also hold them to account by challenging attitudes and behaviours which signal a risk to the community.’
Last week furious parents lashed out at a different charity that hosted a family fun day to help rehabilitate paedophiles.
Photos from the day show children and teenagers playing and jumping around at Keyworth United’s ground, Nottinghamshire. No convicted sex offenders were at the event
The event was held in aid of The Safer Living Foundation, which says it aims to help people who are ‘sexually attracted to children’.
A poster for the fun day advertised bouncy castles, face painting, and an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style assault course.
But local residents who attended say it was not made clear where the proceeds were going, with some claiming they would never have gone if they had known.