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The power of peer support

This report reflects on the value of peer support and shares practical insights from 10 of the organisations we worked with in the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund.

This report reflects on the value of peer support and shares practical insights from 10 of the organisations we worked with through the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund. 

Key findings

  • The evidence generated with the cohort shows that peer support has the potential to improve psychosocial outcomes, behaviour, wellbeing outcomes, and service use.
  • Reciprocity is an important motivator for volunteers. 
  • The most effective volunteers were trained and well supported.
  • Developing relationships with public service professionals was helpful in scaling.

One in four of us is living with a long-term health condition and/or a diagnosable mental health problem. To help us manage our conditions or support our loved ones in the best possible way, it is simply not enough to make small changes to the health and care systems.

Instead, we need an unconventional new approach in how we design and deliver health and care services that puts people in the lead, uses the resources in our communities and embeds co-production as a core principle. 

Peer support is one of the key elements of this new approach. At the heart of it, it's people helping similar people. It puts people with similar long-term conditions or experiences in the lead to support each other, leverages the assets of our communities to support recovery or self management, and uses co-production at every step. 

This paper reflects on why peer support is a critical piece of the puzzle in the future of people-powered health. It also shares the practical insights from our Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund peer support cohort.

It concludes with what the future might hold for those working with and commissioning peer support in England.

Authors

Katy Rutherford

Katy Rutherford

Katy Rutherford

Senior Programme Manager, Health Lab

Katy is a Senior Programme Manager in Health Lab. She currently manages Accelerating Ideas, a five year partnership between Nesta and Big Lottery Fund to support eight highly promisi...

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Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Programme Manager

Jullie worked with a number of health and ageing projects funded through the Accelerating Ideas programme, focusing on social innovations that make it possible for people to be more ...

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