The case for peer work

Lily Wu, Peer Support Worker, South Western Sydney Local Health District

The case for peer work

Find out how your organisation can benefit by developing a mental health peer workforce.

As mental health and community services in Australia change to become more person centred, organisations must keep pace. More and more organisations look to the firsthand experience of mental health service users (consumers) and carers to help deliver services that are fit for purpose and sustainable. Evidence suggests that employing peer workers, or ‘experts by experience’, will have a positive impact on the quality of services and client outcomes.

Following is the evidence to champion and mobilise a peer workforce within your organisation.

What is peer work?

Peer work is key to embedding person-first, recovery-oriented and trauma-informed approaches in mental health services.

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Peer work unpacked – roles and functions

Peer workers can work across a number of areas in the mental health system, in public, community and private settings.

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Why develop a peer workforce?

Peer work is consistent with a number of standards which include carer and consumer participation; and demonstrations of partnering with consumers.

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Profile of a peer worker

In 2013 Health Workforce Australia conducted the first national survey of peer workers. A total of 305 people responded to the online survey.

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Emerging areas of peer work

Peer Health Coaching is an initiative to improve the physical health of people experiencing mental health issues.

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Training

Peer workers, while having a range of professional skills, typically undertake professional competency training gained through vocational education.

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Peer work in Australia

Across Australia the mental health peer workforce is becoming increasingly established and new employment opportunities are emerging.

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Peer work globally

The expansion of peer work roles and the peer workforce is proceeding apace in many other countries which employ peer workers in significant numbers.

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Evidence base

Studies confirm that peer work is an evidence-based practice and that peer worker provided, recovery-oriented mental health services are highly valued.

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