How peer support in Scotland adapted to a digital world during Covid-19

26th November 2020

This new research explores how peer support in Scotland has adapted to a digital world with creativity and flexibility during Covid-19 restrictions.

Text: Meaningful connections accompanied by 4 jigsaw pieces in a row.The Meaningful connections research report is based on engagement with 170 different peer support services and 110 participants from across the country. We were overwhelmed with the positive response and the valuable information shared.

The research is a celebration of the innovative and responsive solutions that peer support facilitators and services are providing at a time of challenge and uncertainty. As many services were stopping, the Third Sector and grassroots peer support groups, in particular, were trying out new ways of working. Peer support adapted quickly, continually evolving with a growing experience of what was working well. Providers learned new skills, found their way around digital tools, and supported participants to access and feel comfortable to do the same.

The report highlights the benefits, as well as the challenges, of taking peer support into the digital space at a time when continuing to provide mental health support and maintaining relationships is more important than ever.

What did we learn?

Key learning from the research:

  • Support during lockdown was innovative and responsive
  • Flexibility was a key enabler of success
  • The digital divide was a key barrier
  • Facilitators need support to make this approach work
  • Remote peer support worked for a lot of people

The big question was how to build connection and compassionate relationships when you are not in the same room together? Would it even be possible? Simply put, yes! One provider commented:

The people that come responded really positively, surprisingly positively, they seem to appreciate it and feel that sense of connection with people. I had an assumption people weren’t feeling as connected, but they said they had and it had been good.

 

Digital is seen not as a replacement for face-to-face peer support but as an additional approach that can provide choice and meaningful connections. Another provider commented:

They’ve said even when face-to-face groups come back they’d still like to have the Zoom groups because they’ve really enjoyed that connection. They’ve said nothing beats being face-to-face but this is something they would like to continue maybe once a month. They’d like a blended approach. 

Investment in peer support

The evidence for more investment in peer support is growing. This research complements the findings from the Staying connected and Build back better resources. It once again highlights the need to invest in and build on lived experience and peer support as an integral part of mental health and wellbeing support in our communities.

Scottish Recovery Network’s Acting Director, Louise Christie commented:

The ability of peer support to adapt and change during Covid-19 lockdown should be celebrated and built on. The Meaningful connections research further cements the need for peer support to become a much more important and valued part of our mental health system. 

We would like to thank all the peer support providers and participants who gave their time to contribute to this research. Learning from the report will be shared widely and we hope encourage further conversations and action (see event opportunity below) to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from peer support in the future.

 

Resources

Download the Meaningful connections report (PDF)

Front cover of the Meaningful connections report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Sign Language (BSL) version of the Meaningful connections report