Peer Support and Advocacy Service

Co-designed with, for, by Lambeth Black communities

Black Thrive have been leading on the co-design process with community members to develop the new Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance’s Culturally Appropriate Peer Support & Advocacy (CAPSA) service.

Our approach has been to prioritise working in partnership with the community; creating opportunities to ensure that the voices and lived experiences of Lambeth’s Black communities are heard.

Our key objectives are to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Black communities by increasing access to mental health services in the community and improving individuals’ recovery journeys.

Peer support brings people together who can offer each other practical and emotional when experiencing mental health challenges. Peer support can help people to make real progress in their recovery. People who have experienced mental health illness can draw on their own experiences, offering a level of understanding to help others for whom traditional mental health support has not worked.

Peer support and advocacy work can be rewarding and have multiple benefits for the peer support workers and advocates themselves, increasing levels of self-esteem, confidence and positive feelings that they are doing good. Peer support workers often experience an increase in their own ability to cope mental health problems. Peer support provides an opportunity to further their own recovery and take on new roles that can help people.

The new CAPSA service will be launching in July 2021. We are currently offering a free 8-week training course providing the skills and knowledge needed to deliver culturally appropriate peer support work. If you would like to register your interest, please click here.

CAPSA peer support workers will be trained and recruited to deliver one-to-one support to members of the community and service users in inpatient units. Peer support workers will be given access to supervision and be fully supported to undertake their roles. A key element of peer support workers roles is to ensure that Black service users and their families feel supported and empowered when using services. CAPSA advocates will also be trained work alongside community members and service users to advocate on their behalf to ensure their views, wishes and needs are taken into account.

One service user explained the importance of services recognising the impact that culture -plays in their engagement with services:

“To be referred to community and voluntary services for my community, who will understand the battles in society we have to face based on the colour of my skin.”
(Community engagement participant)

The CAPSA values are based on the following principles of engaging and empowering black communities to embrace and acknowledge their potential:

  • Humanity
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Respect
  • Togetherness

Peer support can have a positive impact on the mental health systems because peer support is based on empathy and mutual respect from one individual who has experienced mental health difficulties to another. Hierarchy is replaced by humanity; miscommunication is overridden by deeper understanding of what members of Black communities need to support their mental well-being.

Service users and their carers have repeatedly told us that having access to suitable education, training, employment and volunteering opportunities would contribute significantly to feelings of stability and improved levels of mental health. Gaining skills and confidence through employment and training activities leads to greater social inclusion. CAPSA peer support workers will collaborate with employment support providers in Lambeth to enable Black service users to find meaningful employment.

We have spoken with many grassroot organisations within Lambeth who support Black community members and will form our Trusted Partners network. Trusted Partners will support our peer support work to enable service users to access the information, services and support they need on their recovery journeys. Helping engage individuals in positive activities for health benefits or provide support and advice around issues such as housing or managing debts. Trusted Partners will have an excellent understanding of the local and cultural context of our service users’ lives.

Black Thrive also works to disrupt the systems to reduce structural inequality and the factors that negatively impact on Black people’s mental health. These factors include increased risk of poor health and wellbeing for example, poor housing, poor physical health, unemployment, poor quality employment and financial insecurity.

Community is at the heart of the way the CAPSA service was co-designed. The peer support workers and advocates recruited will be an important part of the service development. The principles of co-production will be central to the ongoing development and delivery of peer support and advocacy services.

Black Thrive aim to create a collaborative space where professional expertise and lived experience are equally valued and foster an environment where every service user feels empowered to bring their whole self to discussion. This will help bring about changes in the system and improve members of Black communities’ experiences of accessing mental health services.

“Co-design is more than a process. It is a social movement focused on challenging and changing inequitable power structures. Designing with, not for people.”
Beyond Sticky Notes

Our end goal is to develop a service that supports the needs of Lambeth’s Black communities by “Having a good understanding of culture to explore the underlying issues.”

Written by: Dr Shola Apena Rogers – Interim Programme and Partnerships Manager (Adult Mental Health)