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New framework launched to strengthen mental health support services

30 October 2020

Health Education England has published new guidance to help expand and boost the quality of mental health support services.

The new competence framework aims to strengthen training and help drive recruitment and diversity within the mental health peer support workforce, in line with the NHS Long Term Plan and People Plan.

Peer support workers are people with experiences of mental health challenges themselves, who then choose to use these experiences and empathy to support other people and their families receiving services. In this way, peer support workers can formally join other members of someone’s care team, working towards wellbeing by inspiring hope and recovery.

HEE’s ambition is to support the development of peer support workers nationally across perinatal mental health, adult severe mental illnesses (SMI) community care, adult crisis alternatives and problem gambling mental health support.

Professor Simon Gregory, HEE’s Deputy Medical Director. Primary and Integrated Care, said: “The role of peer support workers is invaluable, and our vision for the next five years is to significantly increase their number across all health and social care sectors, to complement and add value to the mental health offer within services.

“The introduction of people with personal experience of mental health problems into the mental health workforce is a hugely significant step in building a service that is more recovery-focused and person-centred.”

The Competence Framework for Mental Health Peer Support Workers (PSWs) describes key skills, making clear the expectations of the role and the responsibilities of employers for the training, support and personal development of peer support workers within their organisations. It also includes additional skills, which some peer support workers may wish to develop to improve the support they can offer to individuals and to groups.

The framework, developed with the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, will help those involved in mental health care services who wish to deepen their understanding of the peer support worker role, and will be useful to team members working with MH PSWs, their managers and commissioners of services and education.

Mental health care services range from dedicated mental health nurses and nursing associates to social workers, pharmacists, the allied health and psychological professions and many other associated roles.

By developing the mental health workforce, HEE is supporting the wider NHS to make services more integrated and to ensure that people can access them at the right time.

Health Education England is providing funding to support training, as well as a training grant, to organisations expanding the numbers of peer support workers. Funding for training is also available to support development of PSW supervisors.

The Competence Framework for Mental Health Peer Support Workers can be found here:- https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/mental-health/new-roles-mental-health/peer-support-workers