New report reveals true value of peer support scheme

Emotional and financial benefits of CPFT's Recovery College East programme are highlighted - and read Oliver's inspiring story

New report reveals true value of peer support scheme
11 September 2018

The benefits of a programme run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), which trains those with lived experience of mental health issues to help and support others have been highlighted in a new report.

The report has found that those who trained as peer support workers at CPFT’s Recovery College East improved their own mental health and well-being, felt more confident, and were less socially isolated.

They were also able to take on, and keep, paid jobs and their relationships with family members and loved ones also improved.

Overall, the Social Return On Investment (SROI) report found that for every £1 invested in the Peer Employment Programme there was a “social return” of between £17.46 and £35.16.

It also found peer support workers were highly valuable to the Trust at a time when the recruitment of specialist staff to the NHS continues to be challenging. Their input was also helping colleagues to further understand the needs of mental health patients.

The findings are contained in a report compiled by experts from Anglia Ruskin University which looked at the peer education programme run by CPFT’s Recovery College East.

Sharon Gilfoyle, Head of Recovery and Inclusion at CPFT who founded the Recovery College East, said: “Since we launched the Peer Education Programme, 153 people have taken the course and trained to become peer support workers.

“In that time, through the feedback we have received, we have known the impact this has had on the students who have trained as peer support workers. But this is the first time those benefits have been considered alongside the financial gains to them and the wider community.

“They go to show the impact of developing peer support workers goes far further than just to the individual and the people they go on to support.”

Commissioned by CPFT, the independent report was carried out by Elaine McCorriston and Nicky Stevenson from 3rd Sector Futures, a specialist unit based in the Lord Ashcroft International Business School at Anglia Ruskin University.

They looked in-depth at the Recovery College East programme which recruits people who are previous and existing recipients of mental health services, some of whom have been service users for many years, and trains them to work as peer support workers during an intensive 12-week course.

Since it began in 2019, 60 people are still working in the Trust in a variety of roles. Some have gone on to further their careers by completing their nurse training, others are now in more senior roles in the Trust, while others have set up their own private businesses.

The report states: “Peer support worker trainees had improved their mental health and well-being, learned new skills, felt more confident and empowered, were less socially isolated, and were more able to take on and keep fulfilling employment.

“The other change was that having staff with lived experience of being a mental health service user was changing the culture within the clinical teams at CPFT.

“Both peer support workers and their friends, family members and loved ones reported improved relationships and friends, families and loved ones reported that their own well-being had improved as they were less concerned about the PSW’s mental health condition.”

The report added when the Social Return on Investment calculations were completed “the resultant social return ranges from £17.46 to £35.16 for every £1 invested in RCE’s Peer Education Programme".

Sharon Gilfoyle added: “The peer education programme is really challenging - both to get onto and then complete. Indeed some of the people who complete it may have previously been unemployed for many years so it is a huge achievement to get through the course and to graduate as a peer support worker.

“Peer workers have their own lived experience of significant mental health challenges and they offer support to others on one of our wards or in the community. They can build a relationship with a peer because they have been there themselves, and they offer hope and strength to the person they are working with. It’s a very different role to other health care professionals, and a really vital one.”

CPFT’s Recovery College East – which has bases in Cambridge and Peterborough – offers a wide range of courses to help people develop new skills or increase their understanding of mental health challenges and recovery.

The report can be read in full on the Recovery College East pages of the CPFT website here.

My story: Oliver Ayres

“Recovery was a concept that I struggled to understand in relation to my life, having faced significant mental health challenges for many years.

“My story began at age 14 when, after various aspects of my life began to spiral out of control, I found myself receiving support from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Peterborough. I am now working for that same team who supported me in my time of need and helped me rebuild my life – one that I now love and where I feel I have a purpose.

“At the age of 18 I was introduced to the Recovery College East where I first met a peer support worker. When the peer support worker told me that they had faced their own challenges and were now working in a role supporting others, I was amazed. I couldn’t believe CPFT were employing people who had themselves received support and were encouraging them to use these experiences to empower others. My mind became set on becoming a peer support worker.

“The first step was attending the Recovery College in an attempt to get onto the peer education programme. My dream became a reality, one thing led to another and on completion of the peer education programme, I applied for a job as a peer support worker – a paid job that would give me a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the mornings. During my time on the peer education programme, I met others who had similar dreams and were facing their own challenges. The Recovery College East helped me grow in confidence, challenge my thoughts and be that positive role model for others and myself.

“My role within CAMHS has been extremely rewarding. The team has been immensely supportive of me and my role. The comments from the young people that I work with when they find out that I too have received support from CAMHS echo how I felt when I first met a peer support worker. Peer support instilled hope into me and my role now is instilling hope in others.”


For more information contact: 

Andy Burrows
Media and Marketing Manager
E andy.burrows@cpft.nhs.uk
T 01223 219467


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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