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Peer Support

Peer support is becoming an increasingly important part of public service provision, for example through the NHS expert patient programme, breastfeeding mentoring groups or weight loss groups. All these schemes build on the basic principle that ‘peers’, i.e. people of the same age groups, backgrounds or dealing with similar problems and challenges, are in the best position to help each other. While some peer support schemes are pure community self-help schemes (such as classical self-help groups for patients with chronic diseases), peer support schemes which co-produce public services also involve professional support, for example in the case of the Peer Education Programme for young people in the London Borough of Lambeth. Peer support works on the idea that people are ‘experts on their own lives’ (Poll, 2007) and can share that expertise with others. It also links to the  Big Society idea that people don’t have to rely on formal state services and professionals to get things done.

Within social care, peer support has been highlighted as a key mechanism through which people learn how to manage a personal budget (seeing the sorts of things that other people spend their money on). Timebanking formalises peer support as a form of skill swapping. These initiatives continue to require some element of professional input to facilitate the support networks or monitor the use of public funds.

There are forms of peer support which require no input from professionals (such as local fruit and vegetable buying cooperatives or bartering schemes) but they are not examples of co-production as the term is understood here. 


Climb Back into the tree....





Governance International Case Study “Close To – Peer Training of Learner Drivers by Offenders in Austria”

Governance International Case Study “Peer Educators lead the Way: How London Borough of Lambeth lowered teenage pregnancy rates and improved sex education”

Poll, C. (2007) Co-production in supported housing: KeyRing living support networks and  neighbourhood networks’, Research Highlights in Social Work: Co-Production and Personalisation in Social Care Changing Relationships in the Provision of Social Care, 49: 49–66.

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