December 2021

I’m so excited to start as the new Peer Support Development Worker for Derbyshire Healthcare.

Having spent the last six months in the Work Your Way team helping people with mental health conditions to gain employment, my belief in the value of peer support is greater than ever. I feel so passionate and prepared to enhance the presence of it throughout the Trust. Last month I spoke at an AWA meeting for service managers and clinical leads about enhancing our Peer Support roles and the reception was very positive.

My first week starts with a planning and priorities meeting with my line manager Becky (Service User Placement Co-ordinator) and Sam who is the Trust’s IPS Service Manager and also overseeing our new project.

We iron out the differences in our roles and agree that my first task will be understanding the logistics of how we as a Trust educate and develop peer support workers in partnership with both Health Education England (HEE) and our main training provider organisation called ImROC. Having already undertaken their Peer Support and Preparation Training course I feel excited to promote its benefits wider and encourage even more of our peers to undertake it.

Though we have ambition to grow, there is only myself and Becky in our team at present and she will be focusing on creating apprenticeships in the Trust. This brings us to join forces with around five other colleagues to form a Peer Apprentice Working Group which will meet monthly to discuss developments in this area. Our first get together proves insightful and it’s great to explore where this route will take us as a Trust.

Becky and I spend our last working day of the year together having a ‘walking meeting’ at Calke Abbey. We talk about our next steps after the festive break and how we plan to spread the message about the values of peer support and recruitment to teams within the CMHT’s. It’s wonderful to get a sense of how broad the scale of this initiative can go.

Happy Christmas and here’s to more exciting developments in 2022!

January 2022

After a lovely Christmas break, we’re back in the fold and cracking on with our New Year priorities.

Becky and I arrange to meet with colleagues from the Psychiatry Teaching Unit (PTU) to understand more about how they use lived experience to educate future professionals. We would love to tap into their bank of 50+ ‘Experts by Experience’ and feel positive that we can work together to encourage them to undertake the ImROC Peer Support Training.

Talking of ImROC, our latest cohort started their course this month and I really enjoyed getting to know them and ensuring their induction was smooth and enjoyable. I also get the great news that my request for extra places has been granted and I can now offer a further six peers the opportunity to complete their training in March.

I was so lucky to attend a meeting with Drew and Saffron, Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trusts’ Peer Support Development Workers who tell me all about their roles and how they operate within their broader teams. They very generously shared some of the resources they have created for their peer support workers and inspire me to create similar for our Trust. I came away with tonnes of great ideas and got cracking whilst I was feeling so motivated.

February 2022

As we start to form an identity for ourselves, Becky and I meet at a café for a planning meeting to discuss our team name and explore it’s meaning. We agree that we wish to be known as the Peer Hub and become a centre of expertise and resource for peer work in the Trust.

We discuss the resources that we would like to create for peer support workers, their supervisors and teams as well as how we wish to present and circulate these. Many of these materials will be my responsibility and I’m excited to get creative and make a start.

I meet with a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist in the Early Intervention team who has a wonderful service user in mind for our ImROC training. I tell her about our new Hub and the support we can offer and she excitedly passes me onto the service user for a phone call. He too is full of enthusiasm and I know will be perfect for ImROC and a future in peer work. Days like these are some of my favourites!

With the good news that I have a final new recruit for Peer training I happily announce that the March cohort is full and contact all of the trainees to introduce myself and the learning process they are soon to embark upon. I will be their point of contact now and there in the background should they have any queries as they begin the programme.

I was also delighted to be asked to sit on an interview panel for a new Peer Support Worker in the Work Your Way team. I’ve yet to help recruit any peers and so enjoyed my first opportunity immensely. It was really insightful to learn the marking process and see each our candidates bring something different to the table. I feel really excited about our preferred applicant and look forward to helping with their induction when the time comes.

March 2022

This month I have the wonderful opportunity to undertake a Peer Supervisor training course with ImROC. I attend full day workshops, one day per week for the month and get to meet and network with so many peer practitioners across the country. It’s fantastic!

The aim of the course is to learn ways to supervise peer support workers and we are shown different techniques and models to help us in our supervisions. As we progress in our roles, Becky and I will be offering regular supervision to peers, in both 1:1’s and groups so this course has helped to equip us for this brilliantly.

I was able to put what I have learned into practise as I supervised two peers this month and offered an open, safe space to discuss how they were finding their new roles. We spoke about appropriate language around staff with lived experience and how some colleagues in the Trust aren’t always demonstrating this. This highlights a key learning point for us all and is something I raise in our regular Peer Steering Group meetings to look at further.

I also really enjoyed assisting in the filming of a new video for the HR department which saw a handful of staff members record a small segment about their roles and how long they have been at the Trust. The first draft looks fabulous and we all hope it will help to recruit lots of great new talent to our organisation.

April 2022

My first task of the month is to complete a demands scoping survey for Health Education England outlining how many ImROC training places we require for 2022/23. I sit with Tracy, our People Development Lead and we request our numbers for both peer support workers and peer supervisor places, based on our waiting lists and the places we used this year. It’s now a waiting game to hear if we’ve been successful. Fingers crossed!

One of the key things I want to create is an online space within the Trust website for peer support and I had a very promising meeting about it with the Communications Manager this month. We explored how it will look and the information and resources I can fill it with. Hopefully we can get it up and running over the Summer which will be a great way to shout all of the great things we’re doing.

I was delighted and very pleasantly surprised to be asked to speak to the Board of Directors next month about my journey as a service user and staff member as part of their public meeting series. I have watched in awe as other friends and colleagues have spoken in the same slot and feel proud and privileged to be following in their footsteps. Time to get writing my speech!

I also meet with two Parent Peer Support Workers from our CAMHS team to hear how they have found it settling into their new roles recently.  We have the opportunity to offer them places on some specialised peer coaching for parents and carers through the Charlie Waller Trust and will now wait to hear if their applications have been successful too.

The highlight of April however is my appraisal, reflecting on my first 12 months in the Trust. It’s such a wonderful, uplifting and celebratory meeting with Sam and Becky and I leave on a total high, full of ideas and goals for the future. Having never worked in healthcare before, this role was a risk but after my appraisal I am certain I made the right choice.

May 2022

May starts with a meeting of staff in Peer Management roles across the Midlands. It’s really interesting to hear about the work they do, challenges they face and how they overcome them. Whilst there’s a huge amount of crossover between us all, there are also different ways of working and structuring our peer support provision that we can use to learn how best to operate within Derbyshire.

We have been tasked with creating a detailed Peer Strategy for the Trust and were fortunate enough to hold a meeting with some of our peer colleagues to assess what it needs to contain. This will inform how we recruit, train, develop and support our staff with lived experience and will be a main priority for us over the Summer. It’s quite exciting to be entrusted with something of this scale, so we’re determined to make it as meaningful as possible.

Since the start of the year, it has been on my radar to commence a series of internal peer support worker network meetings, offering all peers in Derbyshire a place to meet, share best practice, seek support and feedback any challenges. We held our first one this month and it was great to hear from those actively working in this area and learn from them and their needs. It is going to help shape our strategy and how we recruit and manage peers going forward.

I will be sitting on a couple of interview panels for new peer support workers in June, so helping their teams with shortlisting this month was a great insight into spotting talent in this area and seeing the potential in our candidates. I love this part of the job, helping to make people’s career dreams and recovery goals come true.

My highlight of the month, however, is my presentation for the Board of Directors. I felt so proud to have the platform to share my transition from service user to staff member and the reception was incredibly positive.

I spoke about the strengths of our Trust services and my delight at securing a paid role to help support others. I also discussed the need to create an ethos of equality across the spectrum as more and more lived experience job roles are created. This was something the Board backed and agreed with so I look forward to helping create the change.

What a first six months it has been! So much to learn, so much to share and so many new opportunities. I know I made the right decision applying for this job, it suits me to a tee and I care so much. I feel huge excitement for what’s to come and pride in what we have achieved so far.