BILLSBOROUGH Julie, et al
An evaluation of the Side by Side programme, which aimed to increase the availability and quality of community based peer support for people experiencing mental health problems across England. The programme was led by the mental health charity Mind, in collaboration with Depression Alliance and Bipolar UK. The evaluation covered four areas: developing and testing a set of values and principles for peer support; examining the effectiveness of peer support, including changes in wellbeing; building capacity for peer support; and commissioning peer support. It also explored how peer support took place within Side by Side projects specifically aimed at peers from a Black and Minority Ethnic background. The evaluation found that peer support was valued and helpful to people involved. It also identified six core values that appeared to underpin all forms of peer support - experience in common, safety, choice and control, two way interactions, human connection, and freedom to be oneself. The findings suggest that peer support enabled people to recover a sense of personal agency and usefulness, which was beneficial to their wellbeing. The evaluation also suggests that peer support works best where commissioners, provider organisations and communities work together to develop a range of approaches to peer support and where people are enabled to take control of how and when they engage with the peer support. The evaluation team was a partnership that included a mental health research team from St George’s, University of London, the McPin Foundation.