Promoting and supporting peer working values in Scotland

10th October 2012

SRN Network Officer Lesley Smith takes a closer look at the Values Framework for Peer Working, including how it came about, and SRN’s future plans in this area of work.

A Values Framework for Peer Working

A defining moment for the emerging peer support worker role was the launch on 4th October of the Values Framework for Peer Working.

The Values Framework for Peer Working is a comprehensive set of values, beliefs and behaviours that aim to:

  • Ensure the peer worker role remains true to the peer support ethos
  • Clarify the role and identity of peer workers
  • Create a basis for further development of roles and services

Developing the Values Framework

SRN has been encouraging and supporting the development of the peer support worker role for several years – from initial discussions through to piloting and further developments – including a national award; employment guidelines; and supporting a ‘Peer Learning Network’ of people actively involved in the emerging role.

Initially our understanding of peer working roles developed through learning and experience from outside of Scotland. With roles and interest increasing, the Peer Learning Network agreed that the time was right to develop a ‘values framework for peer working’ that was based on our knowledge, experience and expertise within the Scottish context. We started by exploring the three main elements of a values framework in relation to peer working:
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Behaviours – what you can see and hear
Beliefs – principles or ideas accepted as true or real
Values – ideals a person or group has about what is of worth and important in life, which determines their behaviour

Eight overarching themes were agreed and a working group comprised of Peer Learning Network and SRN team members was tasked to develop them further. Using the themes as our basis, the group reached a consensus on six core values: Hope, Experience, Authenticity, Responsibility, Mutuality and Empowerment.

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We noticed that the initial letters of the values, HEAR ME, created what is known as a mnemonic which can be both helpful in remembering the values and reminding ourselves that everyone’s voice is important in the peer relationship.

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Each of the six values is underpinned by a set of four beliefs and an overarching statement.

We then looked at how the values and beliefs would influence the practice of peer workers. To do so, we identified and aligned 27 behaviours that peer workers would be expected to demonstrate towards:

  • The people they are working alongside
  • Themselves
  • Within their teams

Having agreed the draft values framework, the group consulted the Peer Learning Network and others we knew had an invested interest in peer working. The response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive:

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One point raised by a number of respondents was whether peer workers would be allowed to work with the values framework and how to ensure that it is kept central to the peer working role. This concern is also echoed in a recent report commissioned by the mental health charity, Together, which raises concerns that formalising peer support roles in mental health could lead to a loss of the peer ethos in paid roles and a move away from the different types of informal peer support experiences.

As one of the aims of developing a Values Framework was to ensure the peer ethos, we now have an essential values based tool that can be used to inform, develop and sustain peer working roles which will address those concerns.

Many of those involved in developing the Values Framework spoke of how the process was also a learning process for themselves. One member of the Peer Learning Network summed this up as:

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Launching the Values Framework

geoffhuggins_picOn 4th October over 60 people gathered in Edinburgh to learn about the Values Framework and celebrate the launch. Sharon Lear and Gillian Grant, both peer workers, joined me to describe the process and content of the values framework.

Geoff Huggins, Head of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Directorate spoke of their commitment in the new Mental Health Strategy to peer working, assuring us that the role is a valuable asset to mental health services. Geoff was also clear that services need to think of developing roles not as something additional to fund but how to use the funding they have differently as services seek to become more recovery focused and also because peer workers can improve outcomes.

julierepper_picWe were also privileged to be joined by Dr. Julie Repper who delivered an inspiring talk on peer working and the importance of a values framework. You can download the presentations from the launch event here. One of the highlights of the day was this marvellous Values Framework community jigsaw created by members of the Peer Learning Network.

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Looking forward

SRN’s aim is that the Values Framework will be seen as core to the peer working role, thereby ensuring credibility and maintaining the ethos of the peer relationship. The Values Framework can also form the basis of a personal practice guide and aid to self reflection for peer workers as well as being a useful focus for supervision. The framework is part of a range of resources we have produced to help develop and support peer working.

SRN are committed to supporting and developing peer working roles. If you want to know more, please contact us to discuss further.

Download the Values Framework for Peer Working.