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Circles of Support are not effective as a supported employment intervention (USA)

April 7, 2011

Circles of Support have not been found to be effective in assisting job seekers registered in supported employment programs with job retention, finds a recent study from the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.

Seven employment programs participated in the study on person-centred approaches to successful job entry and retention. Circles of Support were one component of this research. Data was collected from six service recipients, their service providers and focus group members (most of whom knew about circles of support but had never participated in one).

Circles of support are created when job seekers and their network of support people are brought together in a group setting to talk about ways to support the focus person. Full implementation of circles of supports was never achieved over the study period however two pilot circles were attempted. Over the course of a year, researchers followed up on findings at three, six, nine and twelve-month intervals.

The findings revealed three areas of concern: 1) lack of time; 2) staff competency; and 3) supporter issues. Not having the time to commit to such an intensive strategy was a factor for both service recipients and providers. Staff were also uncomfortable with implementing a strategy for which they had received little training.

There was a discrepancy between the perceptions of service providers and participants over support and the subsequent effectiveness of the circles. Service providers felt that participants did not have adequate support; however recipients believed they did in fact have sufficient support. Participants felt that their circles of support did not work because they drew people together in artificial settings that did not address their real needs.

For more information see, “A Study of the Perceived Barriers to the Implementation of Circles of Support,” available

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