Did you know that in Leeds we have a dedicated Peer Support Coordinator who works with long term conditions peer support groups?
Stacey Taylor has now been in post for 3 months and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of supporting and offering guidance to groups. She is passionate about improving the lives of people through peer support initiatives.
She has been out and about across the city meeting new people, scoping existing groups, identifying any gaps in support but is amazed at the amount of fantastic dedicated people who give up their free time to make these groups thrive and become sustainable.
Stacey gives more information about what is peer support and what does it mean?
“Peer support happens when people who have similar experiences of something difficult come together and use their shared experiences to give and receive support from each other.
Peer support can happen on a one to one basis, a group setting or even online, everyone is different and what might work for one person might not work for another.”
We can define peer support activities as “used, delivered, developed and led by people with shared experiences on an equal and mutual basis, in order to better manage their wellbeing”.
Stacey says: “Here’s one example, recently I met a group of people who all have a lung condition, COPD, which causes a range of issues such as breathlessness or limited mobility. One particular lady called Pat has had this condition for many years and was shocked to learn that, after her diagnosis there was very limited support available. After her initial pulmonary cardio sessions Pat found that she felt a little bit better and more able to self-manage her condition but then her treatment came to an end and she felt a little bit abandoned.
In her working years Pat had been an exercise instructor and although now retired she had a new energy and passion to help others in a similar position to her. Pat met with various people in the health sector to promote the group she wanted to set up, she managed to get a little funding to help pay for a room hire and delivered the exercise session herself…free of charge until there were enough people to pay for the instructors time.
A new initiative from Public Health was delivered through the British Lung Foundation (BLF) to set up support groups in specific areas for high prevalence of COPD. The BLF project worker had been introduced to Pat to they were able to work together and now 18 months later there are 10 Breath Easy groups across the city which offers not just the exercise component but the vital peer support that people needed. The Breath Easy groups meet every 2 months to share ideas and good practice, to discuss any issues and find solutions quickly through shared practices.
After seeing how great these connected groups worked together and also seeing how disconnected other peer support groups were feeling I held a Peer Support Market Place event in an attempt to bring more groups together so they could share learning and best practice. Guest speakers invited to the event included the Leeds Directory, the Leeds Peer Support Network and Debbie from Adults and Health to talk about the importance of peer support for someone living with dementia, also invited was a guest speaker to talk about what funding maybe available and how to apply, giving practical advice to people.
So what is next?
I have identified a lack of support available for some groups and that some volunteers have not always felt fully supported, in an aim to rectify this, work has begun on a volunteer training package which will offer support and guidance on a range of issues that groups may face and this will be ready to roll out later this year, I will keep you up to date with any progress.
I will be co working on a pilot which will focus on how peer support can help with self-management of people with Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI)
Have you heard about the Leeds Peer Support Network?
The Leeds Peer Support Network provides peer support for people delivering and developing peer support activities in Leeds.
The network has expanded to close to 100 members and Leeds Mind Peer Support have co-ordinated several successful events for these groups and organisations. Network members contribute to a monthly newsletter to keep us all up to date on what’s happening in peer support across the city, potential funding opportunities, and ways in which we can learn from and support each other’s work.
For more information about anything in this blog or the network and future meetings, please email Stacey.firstname.lastname@example.org