Peer Support Project

Catherine Hurley, Kate Biedrzycki

Baptist Community Services has been funded by the South Australian Government to run a Peer Support Project. The project aimed to develop a system for the education and employment of peer support workers (people living well with a mental illness) to work alongside mental health services in providing peer specialist activities such as coaching for life skills, self management and relapse prevention. Peer support workers were recruited and employed in mental health services while attending training one day per week for a year. Peer support workers, trainers, peer mentors and the stakeholder reference group were part of the two-stage evaluation processes.

SACHRU was contracted to conduct the external evaluation of the project using a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures. The project began in February 2006 and is due to finish in mid 2008. A midpoint evaluation was completed in March 2007 and found that the program had successfully trained and placed a small number of peer workers. Some stakeholders were concerned that only a small number of services had taken up the peer worker model and more needed to be done in this area. A final evaluation will further consider whether this has been successful, considering some of the challenges and opportunities in progressing the successful integration of peer work into mental health settings, along with other relevant issues.