Peer Support has become established in criminal justice, substance misuse and mental health recovery services, in particular as an effective intervention in driving better engagement with mainstream services, as well as offering crucial personalised support to service users and offering hope that recovery is possible.
When people caught up in the criminal justice system have the opportunity to work with a person who historically has shared that experience, it often acts to reassure them about the quality and usefulness of the intervention on offer.
Since the publication of the Offender Health Collaborative Guide ‘Service User Involvement’ 2015 which focused on the process of involving service users in the governance and development of L&D services, the national team, programme board and the L&D Lived Experience Team (LET) have supported pathfinder initiatives to test out Peer roles at the delivery end of L&D.
Following successful evaluation of the national pathfinders ‘NHS England evaluation of Pathfinder sites’, all L&D teams are now obligated to introduce these new roles. L&D services will include Peer Support Workers (paid and volunteers) in their workforce model and they will be an integral part of the service. Peer workers will work with and support both the L&D practitioners and Support Time Recovery Workers in engaging with individuals, especially those individuals who are proving difficult to engage with.
Peer Support should be explicitly available as an option to individuals throughout the L&D journey, especially those service users who are failing to engage with the L&D practitioners and/or Support Time Recovery Workers. The Peer Support workers may provide, as appropriate, both emotional and practical support to individuals.
Peer Support Workers must have recent experience of being in contact with the criminal justice system and as a minimum, should have been arrested, have experience of the custody suite and court or have received an out of court disposal. They must also have experience of at least one of the key vulnerabilities identified as the target group for L&D, e.g. mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse and other psycho-social vulnerabilities.
Each Peer Support Worker (paid and volunteers) will work with the service for a time limited period (2 years as a guiding principle, but determined by local needs). This will ensure that their lived experience is recent. They must receive appropriate training and support to undertake their duties and have the same access to supervision and other appropriate tailored support, as needed.
The recruitment, retention and development of the peer workers can be supported by accessing the L&D Service Career and Competence Framework (appendix 3 gives detailed recommendations of the role specific competences for Peer workers).
A guidance document ‘How to develop Peer support within Liaison and Diversion’ has been produced, in collaboration with Revolving Door Agency, to support the national planned role out of Peer roles with 100% compliance by March 2021, and this is a welcomed resource to bring a valued unique perspective into our L&D services.