Southwark Circle Faces Closure

Circle grew from what was initially perceived as an interesting policy innovation through an initial pilot phase and then on to a region-wide trial across London. Some early assumptions evolved for the better and our social outcomes exceeded our expectations. At the same time, the Local Authorities who adopted the Circle model changed from being a select few early innovators to those who just want to provide a better service for less.

London proved to be an invaluable test-bed for Circle. Our first Circle was developed and launched in the London Borough of Southwark in 2009. London provided our first attempt at replicating Circle beyond Southwark as we launched our second Circle in Hammersmith & Fulham in 2010. It was in this spirit, that of innovation and pioneering new ways of working, that London continued its Circle journey.

With the backing of, and investment from, the Cabinet Office we entered into the next phase of Circle in London – that of a region-wide trial.

How London Circle Worked

London Circle became both the legally constituted entity (a Community Interest Company) and the centralised team which was responsible for the overall management, coordination and support of the network of local borough-specific Circles.

The original Local borough-specific Circles (in Southwark and Hammersmith & Fulham) were joined by new Circles serving the communities in Havering and Kensington & Chelsea. Each local Circle maintained an individual identity and responsibility for local delivery – including: liaising and forging relationships with their Members; designing and delivering local services, products and ideas; and delivering local partnerships. The region-wide, London Circle team took on the responsibility of centralising ‘back office function’ across London.

Members continued to interact with their local Circle, a strength and unique feature of Circle which we maintained, however through streamlining our back office function we hoped to bring further benefits to Members:

  • The opportunity to interact with Members of other Circles. For example, we knew that Hammersmith & Fulham Members enjoyed meeting Members from Southwark, making new connections and nurturing relationships. The opportunity to do this across a number of boroughs increased in the London network;
  • Build a stronger base of Adult Children, who may live in one London borough, with their parents living in another. Previously, we were unable to reach many Adult Children, but with a population base of 13m residents, London contains more Adult Children with close-by parents than our previous structure allowed;
  • Access to a wider number of, and more varied, social events. Members were able to take advantage of large group based activities organised by other Circles across the city. For example, a West End show, or a day trip to the seaside or an historic market town which are not exclusive to any one Circle;
  • Improved buying power – an aggregated membership base across 32 borough-based Circles would mean aggregated buying power for our Members so that we could procure better services from public, private and voluntary service providers at a lower cost than Members would pay were they purchasing those services individually;

Our mission was, and is, to support older people to live flourishing independent lives and to be a national exemplar of a different approach to supporting older people. Circle is proud of its successes to date:

  • It has been immensely successful in transforming members’ lives – three quarters of our members have made new friends and go out more and thousands of hours of practical support have been provided;
  • Circle has been recognised by our partners as saving money. Our independently reviewed outcomes show that Circle has been instrumental in reducing hospital re-admissions and in preventing the unnecessary use of statutory services;
  • Equally importantly we are proud to have transformed the policy landscape with both the current coalition government and the opposition publicly recognising that Circle represents an important model for transforming adult social care. In recent months we have seen Camden, Harrow and Wandsworth procure their own Circle-like solutions.

We are really proud that we have demonstrated the different ways we can support a good ageing in the UK. Sadly however the current climate of deep cuts in the public sector has made it increasingly difficult to support the growth of London Circle. Circles receive no core funding and whilst we generate revenue from our members, a climate of deep recession and our commitment to serve the whole community meant that London Circle could not be independently sustainable at this time. London CIC therefore made the sad decision to cease trading from the end of March 2014. All financial commitments were met: no London Circle members were left out of pocket and any outstanding membership fees were refunded.

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Southwark Carers
3rd Floor, Walworth Methodist Church,
54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EW
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020 7708 4497

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Nearest tube: Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).

Nearest Railway Station: Elephant & Castle

Buses from Elephant and Castle: ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45