Peer support in progress: what works best to make peer support projects successful

The project will research how peer support workers experience their work within organisations, identifying both good practice and opportunities for improvement.  This will provide evidence-based recommendations as to how peer support can best be supported.  Different types of organisations will learn from each other and adapt and adopt good practice.  The findings will be promoted to encourage the adoption of peer support and encourage cultures within services to facilitate mutual, strength focused ways of working to enable more disabled people to have employment opportunities.

The 6 month project will be coproduced by Inclusion Barnett, Inclusion London, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Real Lives and Barnet Voice for Mental Health.

Research Report

On Thursday 8th February, Inclusion Barnet launched their DRILL funded research report on peer support. The report explores what peer support is, how to make it work and makes recommendations for practice. The report finds that in order to be effective, the implementation of peer support must be accompanied by an understanding of how the values of peer support can be embedded within services.


Peer support is a fast-moving global trend in mental health service delivery; the numbers of people who have experienced, and learned to manage their own mental health difficulties, being employed to support others facing similar struggles, grows year on year. Yet, peer support remains a controversial and contested practice. It has often fallen foul of those who are suspicious of a trend which places value on “lived experience” rather than professional qualifications and attaches value, rather than stigma, to the experience of mental-ill health. Even those who advocate for its efficacy agree that its specific benefits are difficult to identify and describe, let alone deliver and quantify.


The report is based in a qualitative study, using interviews with 36 peer support workers and their colleagues from all over the country and from different sectors. It includes a thoughtful exploration of what peer support is and the benefits of using lived experience in service delivery. It also includes clear recommendations for the implementation of peer support within organisations: including strategic planning, recruitment and supervision.


The resulting research sheds new light on what is valuable about peer support and how it can be implemented as an effective form of practice. It shows that embedding a ‘counter culture’ of practice such as peer support within traditional statutory organisations requires skill and strategic planning, as well as an understanding of how to translate the values of peer support into everyday practice interactions. It lays out the blue-prints for implementing effective peer support for organisations that are new to peer support or are struggling to get it right.