Realising the Value: We can all benefit from peer support
Voluntary and community groups do so much innovative, life-changing and inspiring work to support people to manage their health and wellbeing. But how can we share this knowledge to best support and learn from each other? This was one of the questions we set out to answer at the end of April when Positively UK and National Voices’ Well-Being Our Way (WOW) held a workshop to look at the work of Realising the Value.
As the Realising the Value local partner site leading on peer support, Positively UK recognises that peer support is dynamic and it benefits everyone involved, not only those accessing it but also those providing support. Although in this context we’re looking at how peer support enables people to better manage health, peer support itself has a much wider application.
Our workshop is a good example of that. We wanted to use the workshop as an opportunity to bring groups together to connect, learn and support each other in a peer-led setting. We wanted to share experiences to provide feedback for the materials being produced by the Behavioural Insights Team around promoting good practice in self-management. We wanted to know whether these materials would be useful, and if so in what way and how they could best be presented and utilised.
Around the room we had people and agencies with an incredible wealth of expertise, in a position to both share their knowledge and learn from others. The 18 attendees were made up of those with lived experience of long-term conditions, and organisations representing a cross section of communities and conditions including those supporting LGBT people, those with mental health problems, Parkinson’s and cancer. The fact that all these people were willing to give up their afternoons and in some cases travel distances to be there, shows how much enthusiasm there is for this project.
So what did we learn from the day?
Firstly the voluntary and community sector really wants to learn from others. There was a keen interest to understand how we can adapt and implement good practice to those we support and how we can evaluate the impact of the approach. We also want to know more about the evidence behind our work, to support our knowledge but also as a means of influencing commissioners and decision-makers. This is where the Realising the Value Resource Centre, the new guides being produced by BIT and the economic modelling currently in development by the programme can be invaluable.
Secondly we recognise the need to address diversity and cultural needs by tapping into the insights and wisdom of our peers and communities in order to be more effective in engaging and supporting people around self-management, such as the pioneering work of CliniQ in addressing the sexual health needs of the trans community.
Thirdly we need to recognise limitations and how structural issues impact upon well-being. As Michael Marmot states throughout his work including his review Fair Society Health Lives, some years back, into health inequalities in the UK, all policies need to take account of their impact upon health. The sector has a history of campaigning for social justice, working collaboratively with our communities and peers; Realising the Value presents a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and push forward while keeping the communities and people we support at the heart of our work.