Evaluation finds 55% of organisations now more open to staff with lived experience

An independent evaluation into the St Giles Peer Advisor Network has found that 55% of organisations who have hosted our Peer Advisors on voluntary placements are now more open than they were previously to working with people with lived experience, either through employing them or taking them on as volunteers.

It also found that 94% of the partner organisations who had hosted Peer Advisor placements would be willing to host further ones.

“The St Giles staff member was the diamond that really made it, not only explained the project but almost lived the project with what she was saying as well, you could tell that, I wanted to send my customers to places where I felt sure they wouldn’t be judged, that all the small successes would be celebrated, they would be treated well and she 100% gave me every confidence that that would happen.”  Partner organisation

The interim evaluation was carried out by national charity Revolving Doors between April 2019 and November 2021. It examined the Peer Advisor Network delivered through our network of National Lottery Community Fund supported Peer Hubs. These train people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become professionally qualified Peer Advisors who go on to support others in their local communities through placements with partner agencies.

The evaluators worked with a team of eight Peer Researchers – all with lived experience of overcoming disadvantage – who supported the design and delivery of the research.

“Doing the peer research was particularly enlightening when clients from a different area were able to relate to me, and candidly talked and partook in the evaluation, which they said they would not have felt comfortable otherwise talking with ‘professionals’. It truly highlighted the importance of peer research.” Peer Researcher

The evaluation found that the Peer Advisor Programme had multiple benefits for the Peer Advisors and the people they supported.  For Peer Advisors, these included increased confidence (88%) and improved employment outcomes (97 people – nearly a third – out of 222 who embarked on the programme).  Peer Advisors were found to be particularly skilled in helping people with a diverse and complex range of needs and going ‘above and beyond’ to make a difference to the lives of their clients.

“It [the programme] really helped me get my job. I’m now working because of the things that I learnt, I can take that knowledge, I’ve got lived experience, but you still need knowledge.” Peer Advisor

In a separate independent survey, 95% of people helped by a St Giles Peer Advisor had improved outcomes because they were being helped by someone with lived experience.

“I don’t have suicidal thoughts because of the help I have had. I don’t feel isolated anymore. I can communicate and have more confidence.” Person being supported by a St Giles Peer Advisor.

Ann Griffiths, Peer Advisor Network Lead Manager at St Giles, said:

“These findings show us that we having a direct impact in mobilising change in the sector towards involving people with lived experience. I would like to thank all our partners and The National Lottery Community Fund for making this happen. The Covid 19 pandemic posed added challenges for us in terms of delivery of the Peer Advisor Programme and so our teams had to work extra hard to ensure the Peer Advisors, their clients and our partners got the very best from the Peer Advisor Network in difficult circumstances.” 

She continued:

“We are committed to further evaluating our Peer Advisor Network to ensure that it continues to play a leading role in driving sector change, encouraging more organisations to employ and develop people with lived experience of disadvantage.  We have some exciting plans in place to progress this further.”

These plans include training Peer Advisors to become Peer Evaluators to collect data and carry out data analysis on the impact of lived experience.  18 have already been trained and are already undertaking evaluation work.

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