Mental health service users complete country's first peer broker training course

A group of 15 mental health service users have completed the country's first 'peer brokerage' training designed and led by mental health service users.

The course taught the knowledge and skills necessary to support other people with mental health needs to personalise their own care.

Initiated through a partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, who provided seed funding and business advice to Canterbury and District Mental Health Forum (CADMHF), the peer brokerage training for mental health service users was funded by Adult Social Services at Kent County Council.

The six-week is aligned to the Government’s ‘Personalisation’ agenda that gives choice and control to any person needing social care support, the service user, by giving them the opportunity to manage their own personal budget and buy their own social care that meets their needs. Peer Brokerage Training has already been successfully developed and provided to people with physical disability and learning disability, but has not included mental health service users until now.

The newly trained ‘Peer Brokers’ will help give mental health service users the opportunity to manage their own personal budget to buy social care.

Rayya Ghul, Senior Lecturer for Allied Health Professions at Canterbury Christ Church University, who used a Knowledge Exchange grant to help CADMHF develop their idea, said: “I’m delighted to see this first group of peers complete the programme and be given the opportunity to go on to become established brokers working with CADMHF within a self-sufficient, service user led organisation.

“The brokers have been taught the skills to help budget holders think creatively about how they can use the money to improve their social and emotional well-being by drawing on community based resources, instead of or as well as statutory services. The course has been designed by service users for service users, as people with experience of mental distress and recovery are often better placed to encourage this way of thinking.”    

Mark Kilbey, Director at CADMHF said: “Peer based support is seen as an essential part of the personalisation agenda. It is often underfunded and unsupported, this is why we are determined to make our initiative achieve something that can be used to hopefully inform, inspire and encourage other similar initiatives around the country.

“By highlighting our experiences we hope to contribute to shifting the balance of power away from professionals to citizens and service users in a very difficult funding environment. Kent County Council has funded the scheme so that brokerage will be free to budget holders.”

Paul Absolon, Mental Health Commissioner, Kent Adult :  "Three years ago I had a vision of making personalisation really happen in Kent.  While it is a long road and we need to be patient, this project is a great start in the right direction."

Andy Oldfield, Director of Community Mental Health, Kent and Medway Primary Trust: "We need to instil the philosophy of personalisation and recovery driving change, at the heart of services.  These newly-trained brokers will play a significant part to bring this vision into reality."

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