Showcasing: Peer Worker Networks in South Eastern NSW

Region
South Eastern NSW

Lead agency

The South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network (PHN) leads this initiative in partnership with Illawarra Shoalhaven Partners in Recovery, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Grand Pacific Health, Wellways, Flourish Australia, NEAMI National and One Door Mental Health.

Living Well domain
Better responses

Program overview

Peer worker networks in South Eastern NSW meet quarterly, including the Illawarra Shoalhaven Peer Workers Network, the South Coast Peer Worker Network and the Southern Tablelands Peer Worker Network. These networks provide professional peer workers with the opportunity to share professional knowledge and learning opportunities through a combination of informal support and professional development activities. The program launched in June 2017 and around 75 peer workers – representing both clinicians and those with lived experience -  have participated in this initiative. 

Challenge

Mental health peer workers offer unique support for people with lived experience of mental health issues. They play a valued and complementary role as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

Peer workers have roles across various parts of the public mental health service from in-patient to community, as well as in community managed organisations (CMOs) and PHN-commissioned services.  Peer workers are often required to work alone. The purpose of this network is to provide support that is particularly essential for people working in solo roles and as the only peer worker in a team.

As the peer workforce grows, a network to provide opportunities for connection, professional development, mentoring and co-reflective practice is required.

Solution

Peer Worker Networks are built on the emerging evidence of the effectiveness of peer workers in mental health. Studies show that peer workers provide recovery-oriented mental health services that are highly valued by the people who use them and produce outcomes as good as and, in some cases, superior to, services from non–peer professionals.

Also, as peer workers come together in networks it improves connections between public services and CMOs.
The first year’s activities of this program were supported via a $2000 innovation grant through Partners in Recovery (PIR), and subsequently funded by the PHN. Each arm of the initiative is led by a Mental Health Peer Coordinator and an ‘executive’ member from three other services.

Outcome

Peer worker networks provide a safe environment in which peer workers are given the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas while also feeling supported.

“The peer worker network allows for a lot more co-reflection and support within my own practice. It gives me the opportunity to take cases that are difficult and challenging and assists me with different strategies of working with them.”
-    Program Participant

While the program is new, the benefits may offer an incentive to extend these types of peer worker networks across the state.

For more information, please visit https://www.coordinare.org.au/.