One of the shifts I think we’ll see in the provision of public services – particularly in social care and health – is the significant introduction of “Peer Support Workers”. I.e. people who have been through or are still in the social care / health systems formally and informally working with those currently going through the system.
There are lots of good reasons for this, including:
- It generally leads to better outcomes for the people being supported
- It generally leads to better outcomes for the people doing the supporting
- It’s an approach that works well in partnership with professionals
- It utilises the under-tapped capabilities of people who use services
- Evidence suggests it can be a more cost effective way of delivering services.
As with much innovation, mental health services are leading the way. Thus, this research work by St George’s, University of London is very much worth keeping an eye on.
The Peer Worker Research Project is set up to explore how Peer Worker roles are being introduced into mental health services nationally, in both NHS Mental Health Trusts and in the voluntary sector. We aim to assess what is already known from the existing evidence about introducing Peer Worker roles to see to what extent it applies in a range of mental health services in England.
We also aim to develop guidance and online resources about what supports Peer Workers to carry out their role effectively. We will do 12 case studies across England of initiatives that involve Peer Workers.
You can follow their progress and the case studies on the dedicated Peer Support Worker website. There is also a very interesting event on 28 April about this work and practice developed so far, details of which are here.