peers who volunteer
We hope that whether you are someone with lived experience or a provider or commissioner of services you have found this guide valuable. All the content is based on the lived experiences of more than 250 people who have had contact with the criminal justice, drug and/or alcohol use and/or homelessness systems and who have all kick-started their recovery journeys by volunteering to support others.
The influx of peer volunteers into thousands or organisations – statutory and voluntary sector – across the country is a positive development which has created a huge reservoir of (frequently un-recognised) skills available to the social justice sector.
When organisations invest the sort of time and resources recommended in this guide into the support and development of these volunteers, there are multiple gains for everyone involved. Organisations who do not just allocate tasks to volunteers but take the time to understand their skills and abilities and place individuals in the roles where they can have the biggest impact, will benefit immeasurably from this lived experience.
Peer volunteers benefit from opportunities to “give back”, in particular they can rebuild their self-confidence and realise that they have something positive to contribute to society. Peer volunteers can also learn new skills, and establish a constructive and positive lifestyle which can help with their own recovery journeys. Many people are able to convert their experience of peer volunteering into paid employment and extended careers within the broad social justice sector.
The people supported by peer volunteers are helped in their recovery by people who can share their own experiences as well as providing real-life examples of successful recovery. Peer volunteers can reduce feelings of isolation and increase feelings of self-worth and self-sufficiency, they can also build trust and confidence and, as a result, succeed in connecting the people they support to other services and opportunities.
Organisations can provide people who use services with the added dimension of peer support, as well as benefiting from the insights and different viewpoints of peer volunteers working alongside paid staff. They can also grow their workforce by employing peer volunteers who have received in-house training and are aware of their working culture and practices.
Many peer volunteers become involved in wider lived experience groups and movements, working together to bring about positive change in the social justice sector and beyond.
Increasingly organisations who value lived experience – from their Boards of Trustees, through their senior management teams and including a large proportion of their front-line staff – are recognised as beacons of excellence in their fields.
This site is regularly updated with the latest research, policy and practice around lived experience and peer volunteering. Many organisations also advertise their opportunities for people with lived experience (both paid and voluntary) on the site. We hope you find it useful.
If you’d like to provide your feedback on this guide or share any resources you think would be useful to include, please email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org