Growing Peer Support in Lambeth

In the Living Well Collaborative we believe that peer support is one of the most important ways that we can positively develop the skill mix, opportunities, experience and outcomes for people using mental health services in Lambeth.  The way we provide services and support has become over-reliant on professional expertise and we know that we have failed to tap into the huge potential of service users and carers lived expertise around recovery and staying well.

 We now want to significantly grow and develop peer support so that it becomes possible for anyone using mental health services to offer to help others, or to ask for help from another person with lived experience.

 We’ve already developed a number of successful peer support initiatives such as Missing Link, Solidarity in a Crisis and Community Connecting.  We also know that several organisations working in Lambeth also have their own peer support projects.  So we have developed the Peer Support Framework to publicly set out our commitment to grow and connect the various peer support initiatives so that peer support becomes an intrinsic part of our service offer in Lambeth.  

Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Director of Mental Health, Certitude



Lambeth Peer Support Framework

The Living Well Collaborative believes that peer support and user co-production are central to the transformation of services and is in the ‘DNA’ of how the Living Well Network will be delivered.

This Framework sets out our thinking and planning to make this happen.


1.     What’s peer support?

We believe that peer support at its simplest is about one person supporting another, where both people share a common first hand experience of living with mental health issues.  Support can be social, emotional or practical support (or all of these) but importantly support is mutually offered and reciprocal, allowing both peers to benefit from the support whether they are giving or receiving it.

Peer support can be provided in number of ways – from one person to another in a hospital ward or community setting, by volunteer peer mentors helping to deliver activities; or by peer support workers formally employed by mental health services to work alongside individuals.


2.     What are we doing?

Much work has happened already in the development of peer support within the Living Well Collaborative, such as the development of the Peer Support Manifesto (February 2013), the growth of Vital Link and Missing Link, key research projects led by peers in the development of key initiatives such as Solidarity in Crisis, and the Crisis House,, the development of the Peer Support Exchange Model (2013) and in the completion of the Assessment, Action and Planning (AAP) Prototype.

We believe that by valuing lived experience on a par with professional skills and qualifications, peer support can radically challenge and transform the culture of mental health services in Lambeth.  We aim to draw on the expertise, commitment resources  and assets of users, carers, providers and commissioners in Lambeth to:

  • Ensure everyone is able to access some form of peer support
  • Ensure everyone is offered an opportunity to support others
  • Provide opportunities of peer support at key transition points-  these are times that users tell us are particularly difficult in their recovery ie
    • When entering and leaving mental health services
    • When leaving hospital
    • At times of crises, particularly at weekends.
  • Ensuring access to information on peer support in the community so people a) know about peer support and  b) peer initiatives can ‘connect’ with each other.


In addition we will

  • Raise awareness and credibility of peer support across secondary care, primary care and third sector providers.
  • Share learning, training and opportunities of peer support across the Network.
  • Ensure users/their representatives are present at  key strategic decision making meetings
  • Co-produce new services with users and carers, some of which are peer led ie Solidarity in a Crisis.
  • Help people form their own peer support networks.
  • Work with users to evaluate where appropriate, the services that are developed
  • Co-produce training/new working with service users.
  • Ensure adequate and valued support is available for peer supporters
    • Ensure that peer support is of a consistent high quality through the development of shared values, standards, training and support.
    • Influence the development and growth of peer support, maximising existing resources and drawing in additional resources where possible. This will also involve identifying the conditions that help grow peer support opportunities.


3.     Why are we doing this?

We believe that people can significantly improve the quality of their lives and the outcomes they achieve within mental health services, through peer support.   This is because people can benefit from mutually supportive relationships that are not limited by waiting lists, access criteria or diagnosis.   We know that clinical treatment and formal mental health services are an essential part of many people’s support, but these are limited in terms of timeliness, accessibility and cost. 

Peer support provides an invaluable approach to supporting people that can be fully integrated with people’s formal network of support or, in some cases; it can provide an alternative way to engage someone in self-help or helping others, rather than drawing them towards formal mental health services.


4.     How will we do this?

We wish to develop the following:

i.     informal and ad-hoc support among service users and carers, which many people find just as valuable as support from health and social care staff (or even more valuable);

ii.     organised but unpaid peer support generally undertaken by volunteers who take on roles as ‘mentors’ or ‘peer buddies’; and

iii.    paid peer support, where peer workers will generally be part of a team contracted to provide services to service users.

iv.     We see the collaborative as having an enabling role in the development of these models of provision but are also mindful of the potential to ‘suffocate’ natural processes by over-involvement

We also wish to explore the use Time Bank as a key vehicle to growing peer support and involve others who can offer support away from purely mental health settings.

We have established a Peer Support Working Group which will help to coordinate our work across these areas, focussing particularly on encouraging development of the first 2 areas. .


5.     How and when will we know its happening?

We need to evaluate our progress in building peer support and developing a peer support culture into the DNA of the Living Well Network.  We have therefore identified the following objectives:

i.    To agree a set of shared values and standards around peer support that all providers in the Living Well Network endorse – by September 2013

ii.    To identify with each provider what they can ‘offer’ to building peer support and how they will each meet the shared vision as outlined in Section 2 by December 2014. . 

iii.    To develop a set of targets to scale up peer support and  metrics to help us to evaluate expansion, quality and outcomes related to peer support – by January 2014

iv.    To build on each organisations ‘offer’ and collectively agree a set of shared resources that we can draw on to learn from, share and build peer support activities – by February 2014


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