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Evidencing the role of peer support in recovery

In our latest guest blog, Dr Simon Bradstreet, Senior Evaluation Consultant at Matter of Focus tells us about their approach to telling the story of the difference peer support makes.

It is probably reasonable to assume that most of you reading this blog won’t need to be convinced about the value of peer support for recovery. While there is no lack of enthusiasm for peer approaches it can still be hard to describe and evidence what it is about peer relationships that make them so special. Doing just that has become an increasingly important part of our work at Matter of Focus.

We recently published the findings of our evaluation of a peer support pilot in East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP). We are also working on two more with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, across five Community Mental Health Teams and, most recently, with Fife Voluntary Action and their partners.

Why the Matter of Focus approach fits so well

Our outcome focused approach to planning and evaluation is ideally suited to telling the story of the difference peer support makes. The approach is highly collaborative, in keeping with peer relationships which are founded on mutuality. Everyone with a stake gets involved in describing the work and how they think change happens. We then work together to see what evidence exists to support an agreed ‘theory of change’ which we map in our software OutNav. Taking this approach helps unpick and describe what is going on in peer relationships and then invites us to find evidence to support that story of difference.

The Matter of Focus approach also puts a strong emphasis on people’s stories and their lived experiences, which is similarly a core value of recovery and peer-based approaches. To do that we encourage teams to review and value multiple sources of evidence to help them understand the contribution to outcomes.

It’s been absolutely excellent. She’s tried to guide me through, it’s definitely working. She has shared her own experiences with me. Everything is so much better now, so much clearer. It’s been invaluable to me.

Voice of person supported by the service.

What we found in East Renfrewshire

The pilot was set up with the aim of testing peer-based approaches with people already engaged with the Adult Community Mental Health and Alcohol and Drugs services within the HSCP. With the service delivered by Penumbra. From the evidence, we concluded that the service had been carefully and inclusively developed. We were able to describe how it offered something distinctive from and complementary to wider services in the area. It was also clear just how much the peer approach was experienced as different by people in receipt of it. We saw examples of how sharing lived experience helped build trust and how, in time, this had given people the confidence to make new choices and to embrace opportunities. In some instances, people were able to make seemingly remarkable strides in their recovery during their time in the service.

It has helped me no end. It’s been a new light in my life. I had low self-esteem. I didn’t have the confidence to speak to people. I can speak to people now. I can go into a shop and if I don’t see something, if I can’t find something, I can ask.

Voice of person supported by the service.

Find out more

The East Renfrewshire HSCP evaluation summary and reports are available on the Matter of Focus website. You can also join us at our free webinar Building the case for peer support on 9 February. This is an opportunity to hear more about the findings and approach. We would love to see you there.