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Developing the Peer Support Worker Role in Mental Health

In partnership with Care City, UCL, the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) and local mental health trusts, we are developing and piloting the effectiveness of an evidence-based competence framework and training curriculum for peer support workers, to improve the implementation of this role across the mental health system.

Plans to improve access to mental health care are undermined by the limited availability of mental health workers. One approach to addressing this problem is the development of the peer support role. Peer support workers have lived experience of mental health services, and have received training to provide interventions and support to others with mental health problems.

Several of our mental health partners have begun employing and training peer support workers to provide support, deliver mental health interventions, to help people navigate through healthcare systems and to act as patient advocates. The role adoption within our geography is reflective of that across the country: the role use is sometimes limited, role specification is variable, training is inconsistent, and the structures required for the sustainable adoption and development of the role are sometimes missing.

Over the latter part of 2019, an NCCMH recruited Expert Reference Group have refined the competency framework. A public consultation on the Peer Support Worker Competence Framework was held in early 2020.

The Competence Framework and Curriculum

Visit the UCL website to view and download the Mental Health Peer Support Workers: Competence Framework and Curriculum.

To support improved uptake of this role, UCLP, NCCMH and Care City are testing the competence framework and curriculum across secondary care, supporting people with severe mental health problems, and in primary care and IAPT services, supporting people with common mental health problems. As part of the ongoing development of this pilot, it has been expanded to include students in higher education, initially testing the competence framework with nursing students.

We are also supporting the implementation of peer support workers beyond our region, in alignment with the Health Education England national peer support worker programme.