Wellbeing Our Way is about enabling people to manage their health in ways which matter to them. We work through community and voluntary organisations.
Wednesday 10 June 2015

Dear <<First Name>>,

We’ve been hearing a lot about peer support recently – NHS England’s Five Year Forward View recognises the importance of ‘peer-to-peer communities’ in empowering people to manage their long term health conditions better; and the interim report of the VCSE review calls for a health and care system which values peer leadership as a powerful force for improving health and wellbeing outcomes.

National Voices, alongside the innovation charity Nesta, has recently published an evidence review Peer Support: What is it and does it work? which found that peer support can help people feel more knowledgeable, confident and happy, and less isolated and alone. This was followed by a series of case studies, highlighting some of the ways charities are enabling peer support, and the positive impact for those involved.

It’s timely then, that this edition of WOW Now focuses on peer support – Malcolm Turner offers a blog around his personal experiences of Men’s Sheds and community walks; you can catch up on the highlights from our recent peer support POW WOW (shared learning workshop); there are links to useful resources and opportunities to get to know some of the people involved in the programme.

Many thanks to those involved in our emerging communities of interest around peer support (and care and support planning) – there are some interesting themes and discussions arising which we’re hoping will become the basis of strengthened approaches across our sector. If you would like to know more, or get involved, please do get in touch.

Best wishes,

Natalie Koussa
Programme Lead – Wellbeing Our Way

P.S. Many thanks to all who joined our #PeerSupport twitter chat on 27 May. If you missed the chat, you can catch up by clicking to see a Storify summary.


Wellbeing Our Way’s POW WOWs (shared learning workshops) bring together people working in charities and those with lived experience to develop approaches which enable people to live well. They are a great opportunity for shared learning between staff working directly with people with long term health needs, as well as those who are developing these approaches. 

Many thanks to those who joined the Peer Support POW WOW on 27 May and made this such a thought-provoking and enjoyable day. 

“Many thanks to you for organising the day and congratulations on putting on a great event and getting so many to attend: I am excited and look forward to attending more POW WOWs!”

-    Peer Support POW WOW participant
Thanks especially to our facilitators:
  • A peer supporter and young participant shared their experiences of the Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA)’s Freedom to Be Camp. Freedom To Be is an annual event for which young people aged between 13-17 travel from all over the UK and Ireland come together for 5 days. Everyone who attends is HIV positive. During camp, there are mandatory workshops on issues related to growing up and living well with HIV, creative and outdoor activities which encourage expression and sharing this experience, as well as free time to build friendships. You can see CHIVA’s slides here
  • Mind led a session around the use of electronic platforms to facilitate peer support, based on experiences of their own online supportive community, Elefriends
  • National Voices’ Sarah Hutchinson outlined the findings from the recent research review: Peer Support: What is it and does it work? You can see Sarah’s slides here. The presentation was followed by a useful discussion around gaps in the existing evidence base and the tensions between effectively enabling peer support without undermining the informal aspects – these themes are expected to be picked up by the emerging community of interest. 
You can see the highlights and key messages from the workshop at #PeerSupport

If you would like to find out more, share examples of your practice in this area, or get involved in the Peer Support community of interest, please get in touch with Natalie.
Peer Support POW WOW on Wednesday 27 May. 

Upcoming POW WOWs:

It's been a positive start for Wellbeing Our Way's series of POW WOWs, with workshops on care and support planning and peer support. There are still plenty of opportunities to get involved throughout the rest of the year. These include: 
  •  23 June - Demonstrating impact – developing a theory of change to demonstrate the difference your organisation is making. Please click here to see a draft agenda.
  • 26 August - Self-management support, with particular attention to meeting the needs of young people and meeting the needs of people whose capacity is changing (such as those with neurological conditions)
  • 14 October - Developing person-centred information and helplines 
  • 11 NovemberEnabling people to influence 
Read more and register here. We will confirm places as soon as we are able.

If you are a person with lived experience who would like to attend one of the POW WOWs, please see our Reward and Recognition policy for details of travel expenses and fees available.
WOW How:
brap’s Heart to Heart Project

WOW How is a regular feature which highlights some of the great work already existing within the community and voluntary sector. 
Peer support is an untapped resource and can be essential when people are struggling to find and maintain the ‘self’ when the demands of a life changing situation or illness can make them feel that they have been swept away. Peer support can help to empower people to have a voice and use it.

 - Diane Rutherford, Improvement and Learning Manager, brap 
The Heart to Heart project aimed to enable older women from ethnic minority communities to access cardiac rehabilitation support and to make positive lifestyle changes after experiencing a cardiac episode.  

This group were chosen as some ethnic minority groups – in which higher rates of heart disease are prevalent – face significant barriers in accessing advice and treatment. Women and older people also have real challenges in accessing services following heart disease and sometimes face inappropriate provision when they do.

The project was delivered by brap, an equalities and human rights charity, in partnership with local hospitals.

Heart to Heart trained almost 30 volunteer peer supporters in the skills they would need to understand and empower the women living with heart disease. Most of the peer supporters were themselves older women from ethnic minority communities and so are likely to have some shared experiences with the group they were supporting.

The women were supported for up to 12 weeks, throughout their clinical rehabilitation programme. The peer supporter focused on helping them think about and implement the wider lifestyle changes that they would need to address, in order to improve their health prognosis and better support the medical recommendations that they were offered. Often, it is the emotional support following a heart episode which participants found hardest to address.  Peer supporters were trained in active listening and could offer hands on support by accompanying women to the gym or going for a walk, or by suggesting different ways of cooking favourite meals to make them healthier.  The peer support could involve weekly one-hour meetings and occasional telephone calls. 

The emphasis was on helping those women who may be otherwise unable to access advice and treatment to understand heart disease, support recovery, increase confidence and take on more of the management of their own health – all agreed that support would be useful in making sustained lifestyle choices. Ultimately, the Heart to Heart project aimed to help women living with heart disease to live longer and with a better quality of life.

Those receiving support described the positive impact the project had for them, explaining that “My outlook on life has changed” and “I need to look forward”.

The peer supporters also reported that the experience had been valuable for them with one volunteer describing that she “used to tell it like it is. Now I listen”.

To see a short film and more information about the Heart to Heart project, please see   
If you would like to share an example of promising practice for inclusion in future editions, please get in touch with NatalieWe would be particularly interested in examples around ways in which organisations are demonstrating the impact of their work. 
Tell us something about yourself...

Banane Nafeh is a personal budgets advisor at Disability Rights UK and involved in Wellbeing Our Way, with a particular interest in care and support planning and peer support. Here Banane tells us a bit about herself. 

I am disabled and a wheelchair user. I am currently working as a personal budgets advisor at Disability Rights UK, the largest pan disability in the UK. I am in charge of the personal budgets helpline and give advice on personal budgets and direct payments. The helpline’s role is to empower disabled people to gain confidence to participate in their local community and have similar opportunities as their non-disabled peers. 

What inspired you to be part of Wellbeing Our Way?
The fact that care and support planning revolves around your life - it is the route to independent living, living the life you want to lead based on a self-operated care package.

What’s your number one tip about how you live well?
It is the person who decides how to lead their life as they are their own expert. You need to have faith in what you do. Perseverance, patience and determination, and having goals in life are all ingredients to live well.

What has happened to make you feel most in control of your health?
I believe in the Islamic approach of a holistic growth that combines both the material and spiritual domains alongside self-betterment, strengthening one’s connection with his/her Creator and maintaining good social relations with others to maintain one’s inner and outer heath.

What change would you like to see in how charities enable people to live well, in the ways which matter to them?
After identifying any gaps in the service delivery from social services, charities need to work together to remove any barriers that may hinder disabled people to achieve their outcomes by offering for example peer support, emotional support and raising awareness. Providing information is essential to enable disabled people to make informed choices to take control of their own lives. Charities could bring together the voices and expertise of people with lived experience of disability to implement real changes.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
My faith is vital for me, it eases any hardship I encounter in life.

Latest Blog:
From Men's Sheds to Health Walks 
Malcolm Turner has lived experience of Type 2 Diabetes and describes himself as a ‘helper, carer, facilitator and friend’ to those in his local community. Malcolm has a particular interest in reducing loneliness and isolation.

In this blog, Malcolm writes about his experiences of peer support. Here's a sneak preview...

My father suffered with disseminated sclerosis, my younger brother with schizophrenia and I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes ten years ago.

Having been offered a mixture of sound advice, misinformation and untruths regarding causes and treatments, particularly of Type 2 Diabetes, I came to the decision that I wanted to offer support and help to other people to manage and understand the treatment of their conditions in the best way for them.

Read the rest of Malcolm's blog here

Click here for the latest WOW blog

Meet the Steering Group
Phil Baker is Director of Commissioned Services at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) and a member of Wellbeing Our Way’s steering group. Here is a sneak preview of Phil's reflection on how peer support can enable people to overcome their fears and better manage their health.

What sparked your interest in getting involved with Wellbeing Our Way?
One of the more important advances in recent years has been the widespread acknowledgement that the dominant `system’ thinking needs to be much more balanced with individual or `patient’ thinking. Wellbeing Our Way is a further manifestation of that shift which is helping to redefine the agenda and the answers. I find helping to resolve the challenges of personalising care and treatment satisfying and exciting.

Read more here

Useful Resources 

Peer Support: What is it and does it work? - National Voices and Nesta 

The Hayaan Somali Mental Health Project– Mind in Harrow 


‘Peer Navigators’ Project for people living with HIV– Positively UK and Homerton University Hospital 

The Heart to Heart Project– brap 

Freedom to Be Camp– Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA) 

Voices from Carcroft Dementia Peer Support Group – Sue Ryder Care

Mental Health Peer Support in England – Piecing Together the Jigsaw - Mind

#PeerSupport Storify (summary of twitter chat held on 27 May) – National Voices

Can community-based peer support promote health literacy and reduce inequalities? A realist review – National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

A Guide to Community-Centred Approaches for Health and Wellbeing – Public Health England

Peer Support - Mental Health Foundation

Improving Wellbeing: The Effectiveness of Peer Support - Positively UK

Lived Experience Leading the Way: Peer Support in Mental Health - Together for Mental Wellbeing

Green Gyms: a new club sprouting locally near you? - Nesta

The Power of Peer Support - The Health Foundation

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