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Volunteer peer advocacy service

A group of service users, carers and professionals identified the need for a Peer Advocacy Service (PAS) in 2011, resulting in the appointment of a peer coordinator and the establishment of a Peer Advocacy Steering Group consisting of service users, carers and professionals. This group agreed that courses should be co-designed to provide prospective peer advocates with the knowledge, skills and values required of the peer advocates.

 

At what level did the PPI take place?

  • Co-production.

PPI helped the project to

  • Improve efficiency of a service;
  • Improve quality;
  • Increase ownership.

Background

Advocacy aims to ensure that the voice of the service user is heard, to reduce stigma and to shape and improve the quality of services. Peer advocates provide information impartially so that service users are aware of all options available to enable them to make informed decisions regarding any issues, including services that would support their recovery.

Peer advocacy, where advocates have been users of mental health services themselves, highlights the importance of ‘expertise by experience’, creating an equal partnership between service users and service providers. It is particularly valued by service users as it can challenge the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illness.

Aim of involvement

The peer advocate is an individual who has personal experience of mental health services and has a personal commitment to his/her own recovery and will have maintained their own recovery over a period of time, will undergo specialist peer advocacy training and will be willing to share what they have learned about their recovery in an inspirational way. The purpose of the peer advocate is sit alongside people using mental health services to be actively involved in decision making, management of their treatment and to ensure that SU views are heard in order to monitor and improve services.

The Peer Advocacy Steering Group determined the need for a Focus Group consisting of the peer advocate and two service users/carers from each HSC Trust  to work together developing a common understanding of peer advocacy, to consider what knowledge and skills are expected of the peer advocate and to inspire each other. Service users, carers and the peer advocate combined their own experiences and professional knowledge offering an opportunity to develop, understand and share skills that would optomise the peer advocacy training and service.

Method(s) of Involvement

Outcomes due to involvement

SUs stated:

  • 100%: peer advocates listened to their concerns;
  • 92%: peer advocates helped to make their voice heard;
  • 85%: peer advocates had made a difference;
  • 26%: would consider becoming a peer advocate themselves.

Volunteer PAs:

  • Many volunteer peer advocates have been supported to enter paid employment, e.g. as peer trainers or peer support workers.

Staff:

  • 100% of staff surveyed felt that the peer advocate helped their patient/client.

Feedback/quotes from service users/carers involved

Service user: “hastening my care process and empowerment through advocacy”, “supporting me in what I can’t handle for myself.”

Volunteer peer advocates: “I believe that seeing a person develop themselves, using education and advocating as part of their recovery is a real positive for fellow service users.”

“It enhances my personal confidence and has an immediate positive effect on patients.”

Staff: “I welcome peer advocacy, I am happy to see clients with their advocate, as are my staff. they are essential to clearer and closer interface with services.”

Further Information

For further information, contact: Anna Devlin, Recovery College Coordinator, South Eastern Peer Advocacy Service
Tel: 028 9041 3872 ext. 89872