Celebrating The Legacy Of St Giles’ Peer Advisor Network & The Power Of The Lived Experience Model

Celebrating The Legacy Of St Giles’ Peer Advisor Network & The Power Of The Lived Experience Model

On Wednesday 27th March 2024, St Giles brought together peers, partners and staff, (past and present), to Leeds to celebrate 5 years of the Peer Advisor Network and its legacy in communities for years to come.

Peer Advisors have lived experience of poverty, unemployment, the criminal justice system, homelessness, exploitation, abuse or a combination of these issues. Through St Giles, they receive training and work towards an externally accredited Level 3 professional qualification. They use these professional skills and personal experiences to benefit others through undertaking work placements with partner organisations whilst continuing to receive support from St Giles. 

Our approach means Peer Advisors innately understand the challenges being faced by the people they are helping; they give time and support to help other individuals address and overcome any challenges.

Funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, The Peer Advisor Network (PAN), reached across the UK in a multitude of places including: East of England, Midlands, West Yorkshire, North Wales, London, Scotland and Northern Ireland; serving a diverse range of local communities and neighbourhoods. 

Alongside the hubs, St Giles worked with over 160 voluntary and statutory partners to host volunteers and/or employ Peer Advisor graduates to develop their inclusion of people with lived experience in service design and delivery. 

This cross-partnership approach helped to move along the conversation to progress understanding of the benefits of employing people with lived experience in voluntary and paid roles and also to encourage policy change across a wide scope of organisations.

PAN’s aims were also to:

  • Create new Peer Advisors to provide local organisations with a pool of potential skilled potential employees with lived-experience backgrounds and high-quality training. 
  • Improving organisations’ connections with their local communities, particularly with people with lived-experience, so that they can thrive as volunteers and employees. 
  • Establish an evidence base and foundations for system change in the way that services are delivered for the most socially excluded people. 
  • Engage and support more vulnerable people and create greater impact within local communities by volunteers with lived-experience.

Since its inception, the PAN Network: 

  • Worked with 576 Peer Advisors with lived experience of disadvantage who were trained in advice, guidance and support, with 98% moving into volunteering positions. 
  • 100% of those Peer Advisors reported greater self-confidence, resilience and ability to move into work.
  • 237 trained volunteers moved into paid posts, with 68% of these in advice, guidance and support roles across the voluntary and statutory sectors.  
  • Over 10,000 vulnerable people benefitted from the support of a trained and skilled Peer Advisor with lived-experience. 
  • 166 voluntary and statutory partners hosted volunteers and/or employing Peer Advisor graduates and developed their inclusion of people with lived-experience in service design and delivery. 
  • 7 service sectors benefitted from trained volunteers and paid support workers with lived-experience – youth exploitation and criminal justice, addiction recovery, homelessness, domestic violence, food poverty.
  • 23 Peer Advisors worked in 9 St Giles Pantries across England and Wales with around a quarter going on to work in paid roles. The Pantries have so far provided food help to over 2,000 households, with half of these also accessing additional in-depth support.
  • Over 30 other projects and initiatives worth over £7m in additional investment created by and/or benefiting from the Peer Advisor Network.

St Giles CEO, Tracey Burley said in her opening remarks:

“Our collective effort has created a ripple of positive change. Together, we have built a foundation that bridges the gap between learning and doing, advice and action, support and independence. And as we look forward, let’s not see this as an end, but a start, the power and potential of lived experience is too exceptional to ignore. 

My vision for the future is that we find ways to embed the lived-experience model across more organisations and communities and that we expand the PAN beyond the advice and guidance qualification, opening-up more opportunities for more people to turn their lives around.

Beyond this, we must achieve systemic change, not just within institutions but within government which is why St Giles will be seeking to influence policy makers within the civil service and government to see the power of lived-experience and the potential it has for the future.”

National Lottery players raise over £30 million a week for good causes across the UK. Thanks to them, last year The National Lottery Community Fund was able to distribute over half a billion pounds (£615.4 million) of life-changing funding to communities.     

To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk    

St Giles’ Peer Advisor Network Film


About The National Lottery Community Fund 

We are the largest non-statutory community funder in the UK – community is at the heart of our purpose, vision and name.  

We support activities that create resilient communities that are more inclusive and environmentally sustainable and that will strengthen society and improve lives across the UK. 

We’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to work closely with government to distribute vital grants and funding from key government programmes and initiatives.   

As well as responding to what communities tell us is important to them, our funding is focused on four key missions, supporting communities to:  

  1. Come together
  2. Be environmentally sustainable
  3. Help children and young people thrive
  4. Enable people to live healthier lives.

Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, we distribute around £500 million a year through 10,000+ grants and plan to invest over £4 billion of funding into communities by 2030. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.   

National Lottery players raise over £30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. Since The National Lottery began in 1994, £47 billion has been raised and more than 670,000 individual grants have been made across the UK – the equivalent of around 240 National Lottery grants in every UK postcode district. 

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