What is peer work?
There are many perspectives on what a peer worker is. In broad terms, peer workers are people who identify as having lived experienceof mental ill-health and/or alcohol and other drug issues who are employed (either paid or volunteer) in designated roles within the public or non-government sector who use their common experience to support and inspire hope and recovery in others (Gallagher and Halpin, 2014, cited in WAAMH, 2014, p.6).
Embedding peer work within community managed organisations
There is an extensive body of research and practice-based evidence for developing and supporting peer work. The evidence provides a clear and consistent set of directions for creating an effective and sustainable peer workforce.
Beginning in October 2013 WAAMH facilitated the Peer Work Strategic Framework project as part of the Mental Health reform agenda to embed peer work into the delivery of Public and Community Managed Mental Health and Alcohol and other Drug services.
The purpose of the Peer Work Strategic Framework (WAAMH, 2014) is to support a consistent approach to developing and supporting peer work in Western Australia, whilst encouraging flexible responses to specific agency needs and circumstances.
The framework focuses on four areas: defining peer work; peer worker support and development; system support for peer workers; and developing the peer worker. It also includes online references for information, toolkits and other resources to support organisations to successfully introduce peer work roles into their programs and organisational structures.
To support the release and significance of this framework document, WAAMH is holding peer work workshops.
WAAMH's mental health eLearning program, Shine also contains a very comprehensive module on peer work.
A comprehensive list of resources is detailed in part D of the Peer Work Strategic Framework. The resources include links to organisations involved in peer work, and are divided into the four key areas of the framework:
- defining peer work
- peer work support and development
- system support for peer workers
- developing the peer worker.