Peer support worker
Peer support workers are people who have lived experience of mental health challenges themselves.
They use these experiences and empathy to support other people and their families receiving mental health services. Peer support workers join other members of someone’s care team to help support their wellbeing and provide inspiration for their recovery.
Peer support worker roles are being developed to support the Government's priority of increasing access to and availability of mental health and wellbeing support and a formal training programme is being developed.
The role that peer support workers fulfil will depend on the type of service they are based in, but could include:
- working one to one with service users or patients
- helping to support individuals to develop goals
- supporting people in care planning
- helping people engage with activities
- supporting group work
- helping support people develop recovery plans
Where will I work?
You will work in both informal and formal settings. Informal settings could be in local drop-in groups and cafes for example, or you could work with third sector organisations and charities.
A training programme is being developed, focused on providing peer support in formal settings that deliver NHS-funded care, such as NHS trusts or independent providers. These settings can include community, crisis, inpatient, criminal justice and recovery services.
Who will I work with?
You will work with a range of people who are living with mental health problems, either in hospital or in the community.
They will all be different, but what will connect you with them is your understanding of living with mental health problems yourself. You will also work with other members of a team, for example nurses, social workers, therapists and doctors. In some services, you may also work alongside people’s carers, families and friends.
The key element to being a peer support worker is having relevant lived experience for the service you wish to work in, wanting to support others going through similar experiences, and being able to receive training on how to work with people to do this.
What’s very important is that you’re in a good position to be able to use your lived experience and share this as appropriate in a positive way. You will also need good communication skills - both written and verbal - in your work with patients and service users.
Skills and personal characteristics needed
- open, honest and friendly
- good communication skills or willingness to develop these
- ability to use lived experience in a positive and appropriate way
- awareness of own personal recovery journey
- willingness to work as part of a team
Training and development
A national training programme is being developed which will be delivered by people with lived experience, with support from the NHS, to help individuals develop the skills they need to be a peer support worker. On-the-job training will also be provided as appropriate.
There are options for peer support workers to trial these roles as volunteers, as well as in paid roles, as more become available.