NSUN has deep concerns about a recent proposal which has been put forward to create Peer Support Worker Apprenticeships. We have signed an Open Letter, drafted by peer support workers and their allies.

The values of peer support are the driving force behind NSUN.

Ten years ago, we worked to promote peer support. Now, part of our role is to protect it. 

We have summarised the main points of the Open Letter below, and you can read it here. Email us if you would like to add your name. 

Our main concerns are as follows:

We acknowledge and appreciate the group's attempts to recognise the value of peer support across communities and mental health systems in England. However, we feel that this particular apprenticeship proposal falls short in a number of ways.

The proposal's definition of peer support is too narrow and does not reflect the roots of peer support which lie in social justice, human rights and community action. It also does not reflect the diversity of peer support roles and settings, with its huge variations in practice, perspective and context. Fidelity standards for peer support have not as yet been identified in England, and its core values and principles have not been nationally agreed. This process cannot be rushed.

Core concepts of grass-roots peer support that are absent in the role description include social action/justice, a human rights approach, the importance of community, the non-coercive nature of the role, and a focus on peer support as relational rather than as an intervention. We also have concerns around the peer support worker's duty to 'maintain a focus on their own personal self-care and well-being, engaging in self-management strategies' which we view as discriminatory. 

Due to the important ramifications of apprenticeships and associated fidelity standards, there needs to be a thorough, open and inclusive conversation which examines the benefits and drawbacks of any such scheme. This should involve all stakeholders, in particular user-led groups and peer support workers from both grassroots settings and statutory services. We urge the group who have developed this proposal to pause this process and invite a transparent and open discussion.

You can read the Open Letter here, and email us if you would like to sign it. Please also fill in the consultation on the proposal which ends on the 19th January.