The expansion of peer work roles and the peer workforce is proceeding apace in many other countries which employ peer workers in significant numbers.
In Australia we have the benefit of being able to learn from this experience by accessing a wealth of resources that can assist mental health organisations to ‘get it right’ when dealing with the issues and challenges of creating a peer workforce, avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes made elsewhere. Following are some examples of countries where peer work is gaining traction.
The expansion of peer roles and the development of the mental health and addictions peer workforce is given priority within the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s Rising to the Challenge: The Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012–2017. District Health Boards are expected to strengthen the participation of service users including in workforce roles.
Peer work has been recognised federally in America as an evidence-based mental health practice and profession for some time. The services of certified (accredited) Peer Specialists are Medicaid billable.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada, a key driver of the development of Canada’s mental health peer workforce, commissioned the important 2010 document Making the Case for Peer Support which made a number of recommendations to strengthen the peer workforce in Canada.
The employment of peer workers and peer support is recognised and promoted in a range of policy documents in England, Scotland and Wales.17
Recovery Colleges, sometimes known as recovery education centres, are also growing steadily in Britain. Drawing on approaches from America, the colleges take an educational approach to recovery. Defining features include co-production at every level of the service, a physical base for the college, operation on college principles, and a recovery orientation in all aspects of its operation.18
The Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) supports development of peer roles across the mental health sectors. The network is working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to develop an accredited award and training materials for peer support workers. Resources and guidelines produced by the network to support the development of peer work roles and the peer workforce include the following:
Reviewing Peer Working: A New Way of Working in Mental Health
Experts by Experience: Values Framework for Peer Working
Experts by Experience Implementation Guidelines
Mental health services located in the two major hospitals in Hong Kong have begun to employ people with lived experience as paid peer support staff trained through internships. In 2012 four Hong Kong NGOs were successful in securing charitable funding to provide ongoing training of peer support workers, with an evaluation and research component to build the evidence base.