TheMHS 2015 S045: Peer Workforce – Challenges and Capabilities

By August 27, 2015 No Comments

Irene Gallagher

Irene talked about developing a consumer workforce and developing career pathways for consumer workers. Irene has a passion born out of her experience with being a peer worker and discovering there was no formal step beyond that role. She has led the development of a new model that doesn’t involve the ‘tokenism’ she experienced.

The new model delineates the role descriptions of peer-workers and introduces a consumer line manager who has communication lines to the directors and executives of the health district. This is a really important step. Although it is clear that there are many benefits for both consumers and peer-workers from the existing peer-worker model. There is a lot more potential for the role of peer-workers.

Sharon Williams (Presented by Melissa Petrakis)

Melissa talked on Sharon’s behalf about the development of a peer support worker role in a clinical setting.

Sharon had used an interesting metaphor to describe the health sector landscape as a rainforest, where it can be difficult for new plants to find a place to grow. Partnership in this space between clinicians and peer-workers and consumers need to be authentic. It can’t be called partnership until it is. All parties need to seek more strongly to understand each other and to be empathetic.

Jean-Louis Nguyen, Neil Turton-Lane, Snezana Ginovski

This group presented on a 12-week consumer worker internship program they have implemented.

There is strong interest among consumers in becoming peer-support workers but there are not many roles available and it can be quite a jump for many consumers who don’t have experience on the provider/occupational side of the mental health sector. The internship helps to provide consumers with this experience to give them the leg up to the roles. It involved training, work placement and support in writing job applications. The internship had an online component which enabled people to support each other through the internship. It was also a place for many extra resources to be supplied.

An important ethical consideration was the placement of interns in services for which they were also clients. It was decided it was best to avoid placing them in this context, but this had difficulties considering the privacy of the intern’s health information.