S37: A major step towards professionalising the peer workforce: The creation of national Peer Workforce Development Guidelines.

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By September 11, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Daya Henkel, Tim Heffernan

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: A major step towards professionalising the peer workforce: The creation of national Peer Workforce Development Guidelines.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Daya Henkel - Daya is a Senior Policy Officer with the Mental Health Reform team of the National Mental Health Commission. Daya has worked in the mental health sector for 13 years in a range of consumer advocacy and peer roles. Daya is a strong advocate for the development of the peer workforce and for recovery-oriented and trauma-informed services.

Tim Heffernan is an experienced consumer peer worker and the Mental Health Peer Coordinator for COORDINARE, South Eastern NSW PHN. He is a Deputy Commission for the Mental Health Commission of NSW. Most recently Tim has taken on the role of Consumer Co-chair for the National Mental Health Commission’s Peer Workforce Development Guidelines Steering Committee.

The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) is leading the development of national Peer Workforce Development Guidelines (the guidelines) under the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. This project will support the peer workforce through the development of formalised guidance for governments, employers and the peer workforce about support structures that are required to sustain and grow the workforce. Although local and regional peer workforce frameworks exist, the development of national guidelines will ensure consistency across Australia. National guidelines will also be a step towards professionalisation of the peer workforce.

The peer workforce plays an integral role in ensuring lived experience is embedded in service delivery, and system design and innovation. The voices of consumers and carers in designated positions is a step towards healthier communities and healthier services. In addition, the visibility of people in designated lived experience/peer positions reduces stigmatising attitudes and discrimination within communities and services, leading to better outcomes for consumers and carers. However, peer workers face a multitude of challenges in their roles which require the development of appropriate support structures.

The purpose of the workshop is to create a space for open discussion about what is most needed to develop the peer workforce. This workshop is intended to bring together peer workers, consumers, carers, mental health professionals, employers, policy makers, academics and researchers to explore a range of topics for inclusion in the guidelines. The intention is that participants will take away a greater collective understanding from members of the TheMHS community of what the peer workforce is, what it requires to develop and a greater sense of camaraderie in the promotion of peer work as a discipline.

Potential topics for exploration during the interactive workshop include:
• role delineation
• key roles and functions
• minimum training
• career progression pathways
• peer supervision and mentoring
• organisational readiness
• principles for employment (such as reasonable adjustment, remuneration and safe workplaces)
• and more.

The workshop will take the following format:
• Introduction to the Peer Workforce Development Guidelines project and outline for the workshop
• Introductions and getting to know you in groups
• Group discussion session
• Next steps and conclusion of workshop

Learning Objectives

Learning Objective 1: Participants will leave the workshop with a greater understanding of the support structures required to develop the peer workforce and take away new connections with people interested in developing the peer workforce. In addition, participants will play a role in influencing the development of the national Peer Workforce Development Guidelines.

Learning Objective 2: The peer workforce is an integral part of the contemporary mental health workforce and requires appropriate supports to be implemented to ensure sustainability and growth. The peer workforce role models stories of recovery and hope, and supports consumers and carers in their recovery journey leading to better outcomes and healthier communities.

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