What was the issue that required change?
Within the local team in NHS Tayside, there was a desire to test the efficacy of a Peer Support worker in community mental health to develop and sustain links to the voluntary and statutory sector (NHS and Local Authority). The Peer worker will support those most excluded, people with severe and enduring mental health problems to engage in physical activity, thereby improving their physical and mental health. It is hoped that the Perth-based project will encourage the NHS to employ people at a disadvantage from the labour market. The Peer worker will benefit from work experience, training, paid employment under permitted work rules and will support their transition into mainstream employment.
How did you tackle it?
A peer worker was appointed at band 2, following an interview process with 10 candidates. The worker, alongside the Catalysts team, worked with people across four local voluntary agencies and established a weekly gym group. Twice weekly waking groups were established, led by the Peer worker with support from a volunteer walk leader – someone who had previously been a client of the service and saw this as a means of his own personal recovery. The Peer worker also led an outdoor conservation group who met weekly, with social and physical activity elements, and session with bikes.
What was the outcome?
The walking groups and conservation groups proved very popular and successful. The gym group sadly was underused and folded after a couple of months.
The peer support worker gave a reflective statement indicating how much the programme had improved her own mental health and wellbeing, showing her that other people could believe in her and trust her. She was able to move into other paid employment, but continued to participate with the walking, bike and conservation groups as a volunteer.
The volunteer walk leader also spoke about how the project had been a big step forward for him as part of his own recovery.
The groups have been able to continue with little or no cost to the health board.
The final report is available here.