The NSW peer workforce provides direct care to people across public mental health services, including acute in-patient care and the community.
Peer workers draw upon their own personal lived experience of mental illness, suicidal crisis and recovery to provide authentic engagement and support for people accessing mental health care. Peer workers are in a unique position to build connections and rapport with people by inspiring hope and role modelling recovery.
Support includes individual and group peer support, recovery planning and goal setting, help with navigating the mental health service system, and individual and systemic advocacy.
NSW Health launched the state-wide Peer Supported Transfer of Care (Peer-STOC) initiative in 2017. Peer-STOC is designed to provide peer-led and recovery focused supports by qualified peer workers to individuals with complex mental health needs during a 6-week period of transition to home or community after an inpatient admission.
These positions are usually based in community mental health teams and provide in-reach support to people prior to discharge and in the initial period following discharge.
The Peer-STOC program was independently evaluated in 2020-21 by the University of Sydney, in partnership with the Australian National University. The research team comprised of mental health academics with expertise in program evaluation and research, including lived experience researchers, clinicians, and health economists.
The evaluation found the Peer-STOC program reduced 28-day readmission rates, improved community contacts, improved consumer experiences of service and recovery outcomes, and had a net budget impact (saving) of $1.85 million over the first 3 years of the program. The Final Report is now available.
NSW Health, in partnership with the Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC), are offering 100 scholarships for peer workers to complete a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work.
The 12-month course provides peer workers with the skills and competencies to deliver quality services. It is a nationally recognised qualification designed for people with a lived experience of mental illness to support others on their recovery journey.
This year, the course is available online to support access for rural and regional peer workers and during COVID-19. The program is also open to people wanting to become peer workers. Scholarship recipients or their employers make a co-contribution of $500 towards the cost of the Certificate IV, and prior learning and experience may be recognised.
Experienced peer workers are also being supported to become qualified peer work trainers, with four scholarships to complete the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and ongoing mentorship, available through the program.
Scholarships are now available for the Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work qualification through the MHCC website.
In 2020, the Far West Local Health District strengthened its approach to supporting its peer workforce. One area of focus was to articulate the value of lived experience in the District by creating a video resource with funding from the Mental Health Commission of NSW under the NSW Lived Experience Framework Grants Program. The resource has been widely distributed to staff and partners and has a wide range of perspectives on peer and consumer roles and the value they bring. It has now been included in social media campaigning, included in staff email signatures and is on the District's Intranet page. Chelsea Edwards, Manager of Consumer and Carer Engagement MHDA, noted that during filming the consistent message that came across from our staff, regardless of their role, was a genuine connection to the power of lived experience, and the expertise and compassion held by our lived experience workforce.
Video for The Value of Peer Work Far West NSW
The Glad You Asked Video explores the nature of Consumer Peer Worker roles from Northern Sydney Local Health District’s Consumer Peer Workers themselves. The video celebrates the unique skillset of Peer Workers and uncovers aspects of the role which are not widely understood.
Video for Glad You Asked Consumer Peer Worker Video
The Peer Work Hub is a free online resource that supports employers in NSW to build and strengthen their mental health peer workforce.
The development of a peer workforce in NSW is one of the recommendations in Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW: 2014-2024 Section 8.2, (Living Well). The Peer Work Hub has been created in response to the recommendations outlined in Living Well as an online resource for organisations wanting to develop and grow their peer workforce.
The NSW Mental Health Commission has developed new video resources for the Peer Work Hub in 2020 to promote the mental health peer workforce to employers. The new videos capture the vision for peer work in NSW – as an essential part of every mental health and community service team. The videos are practical resources that address key questions and challenges that employers may have around building or growing their mental health peer workforce.
There are seven new videos that cover the following topics:
Suicide prevention peer workers use their lived experience of suicidality, suicide bereavement or caring for a person who is or has been suicidal.
Development of a suicide prevention peer workforce is a key component of the Towards Zero Suicides initiatives which address priorities in the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023 and contribute to the Premier's Priority to reduce the suicide rate by 20% by 2023.
Suicide prevention peer workers are involved in a number of Towards Zero Suicide initiatives. More information can be found on Towards Zero Suicides and Expanding Peer Support and Peer Led Programs.