Nottinghamshire Healthcare is the first NHS Trust to implement a brand new apprenticeship scheme for peer support workers. This is the first time the peer support workforce has had such an opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification and develop their career in peer support work. From today, Wednesday 24 May, the first cohort of apprentices will begin working towards a Level 3 Programme from the Institute of Apprenticeships.
The eight apprentices, who are currently working at the Trust as peer support workers, using their lived experience in mental health and justice services, will have 20% of their time dedicated to learning, training and study time. The apprenticeship will be delivered in collaboration with training provider West Nottinghamshire College, one of five in the country appointed to deliver the training element of the programme.
Alongside the apprentices from Nottinghamshire Healthcare in this first cohort of 14 will be four others who are employed by the Hepatitis C Trust, one from Nottinghamshire Mind and one from West Nottinghamshire College.
Jen Guiver, Executive Director of People and Culture, Nottinghamshire Healthcare said: “We are delighted to be the first Trust to offer this apprenticeship and to truly be a trailblazer in this area. The Trust has nurtured this from inception and we are very proud of the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in making this long sought for progression route a reality. Peer support workers are unique in the impact they make to our patients and service users by being open about their own experiences. This apprenticeship recognises this contribution and will ensure that they have access to the same career progression opportunities as their colleagues, offering them a way of developing in their career without moving away from a peer support worker role.”
Nottinghamshire Healthcare has been the lead organisation in the ‘trailblazer’ group which co-developed the Peer Worker Apprenticeship Standard for a wide range of lived experience roles across health and justice sectors. The trailblazer group includes employers, peer workers and stakeholders and will continue to provide guidance, support and development of the apprenticeship as it is rolled out.
Peer support workers work alongside other professionals in hospital, justice and community settings, providing peer support for individuals using knowledge gained from their own lived experience of health or social problems or using services. They work directly with individuals, enabling them to find their own ways of understanding their circumstances in order to access support, navigate a range of services and move forward. Creating a safe and trusting space provides an honest and open dialogue in which different experiences can be shared and different ways of understanding can be considered in order to model self-help and self-management skills.
Marissa Lambert, Education and Practice Consultant, Nottinghamshire Healthcare, is Co-Chair of the trailblazer and Programme Lead: “It’s such an exciting time for peer support across the national landscape. It has been a privilege to lead this trailblazer and connect with so many inspiring peer supporters, wider stakeholders and ambitious development programmes. The launch of the Peer Worker Apprenticeship is an incredible achievement driven by collective passion, wisdom and generosity. To support our commitment to the open and inclusive recruitment and retention of people with lived experience, we would like to encourage all partner sectors to recognise the unique skillset and diversity of applications of lived experience roles; aligned with the opportunity to strive for clear progression routes, from entry level through to leadership.”
Nottinghamshire Healthcare was one of the first Trusts in the UK to recognise the value of lived experience by establishing the peer support worker role in 2010. The peer workforce has now grown to nearly 80 people who bring their experience of using services, as well as of trauma and recovery, to helping to develop and support others.
Cheryl McAulay-Wainwright is one of the new Peer Support Apprentices at the Trust: “I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of the first Peer Support Apprenticeship programme. I see this as an opportunity to become the best I can, in supporting people that I meet on my peer journey. I hope that others seeing myself on this path, with all these possibilities, will inspire hope in them that they can also achieve this.”
Gemma Grantham has also been accepted on to the programme: “My hopes are that this apprenticeship will help to create career progression for peer support workers and to build on our skills and tools to support people better moving forward.”
Emma Watson, Peer Support Lead at the Trust, said: “The apprenticeship will provide space for peer workers to explore what they do within a broader context, as well as enable them to expand their skills and learn from a diverse group of students and facilitators. The peer workers who join the course already bring considerable experience and a strong understanding of the values of peer support, and the apprenticeship will only enrich and strengthen our peer workers even further.”
Karen Millward, Head of Employer Engagement at West Nottinghamshire College, said: “It has been my pleasure to be a part of this trailblazer since inception. The Peer Worker role can be embedded into a variety of businesses, providing an additional layer of support using shared, lived experience as a safe basis for conversation.
“As a college we are proud to have implemented the position into our own staff structure and have employed a Peer Worker with care experience to support current and future students going through similar experiences.
“We are actively working with employers across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to embed this apprenticeship into their own workforce. To have been part of the development of a new apprenticeship that now nationally available makes us extremely proud.”
Photo caption - The first cohort of Peer Worker apprentices come together on their first day of the new programme, joined by staff from West Nottinghamshire College and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, whose Education and Practice Consultant Marissa Lambert (third right) is Co-Chair of the trailblazer and Programme Lead.