National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development Guidelines

Chapter 3 - Implementation: co-develop and embed

With the preparatory groundwork laid in early stages, the implementation stage focuses on building and embedding the Lived Experience work. Embedding is different to integrating as integrating implies Lived Experience workers ‘fitting in’ to the existing workplace culture and structure. Embedding Lived Experience workers promotes sector and organisational change as a result of Lived Experience employment and ultimately leads to transformation during mature stages of development.

Leadership and culture

Preparing for and introducing Lived Experience roles is just the beginning of the journey. Once Lived Experience roles have been employed, it is useful to periodically review the impacts of the Lived Experience role on the sector broadly and within individual organisations. These reviews or evaluations consider the impacts of Lived Experience roles on people accessing services, colleagues, and organisations. Other considerations for review include the extent to which Lived Experience workers have become part of the multidisciplinary environment, including for example:

  • level of acceptance from other workers
  • changes in discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes and beliefs
  • obstacles or challenges
  • unanticipated issues
  • what needs to happen next.

During the intermediate stages, cultural change reaches a point where the Lived Experience workforce is accepted as ‘given’ and seen as critical to the sector.

Allyship with the Lived Experience workforce

Active championing or allyship by people at various levels of the sector and organisations helps embed Lived Experience work as essential. Both top-down and bottom-up support ensures wider whole-of-workforce buy-in and commitment, significantly increases acceptance of Lived Experience roles, and challenges discriminatory and prejudicial beliefs and attitudes.

Allyship includes:

  • advocating for positions and funding
  • ongoing discussion and education on the value and potential benefits of Lived Experience work
  • ensuring the uniqueness of the roles is understood and protected
  • promoting designated Lived Experience roles as part of the ’new normal’ within the workforce.

Allyship at all levels of the sector and organisations results in lived experience work being better understood and valued by the whole workforce.

Without strong allyship there is a likelihood of discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes persisting, decreased respect and understanding for Lived Experience roles, limited willingness to collaborate, and insufficient priority given to lived experience in funding and planning.

Ensure that there are allies at all levels of the organisation. Create succession planning for allies so that expertise and advocacy are not lost when individuals leave the organisation.

Strengthen commitment to diversity and inclusion

During intermediate stages, to progress commitment to diversity and inclusion and build a more diverse workforce, various strategies are adopted. Lived Experience employees with diverse experiences, identifications and cultures are proactively recruited. These employees have access to allies, mentoring and support groups representing diverse perspectives, both internally and external to the organisation. Cultural and language barriers to engagement with mental health services and Lived Experience work are acknowledged and better understanding is actively sought.

When culture and diversity are valued and organisational support is given, there is less risk of staff experiencing conflict between workplace requirements and family, cultural, religious or spiritual obligation. Respect for the cultural values of staff and the local community is reflected through awareness of culturally significant traditions, holidays and customs.

Relationships with networks, organisations and leaders representing diverse communities and perspectives are maintained and expanded.

A diverse Lived Experience workforce helps organisations foster better outcomes for people accessing services with similarly diverse experiences, identifications and backgrounds.

Policies and planning

 

Create a detailed Lived Experience workforce development plan

Work with consumers and carers, existing Lived Experience workers and/or Lived Experience leaders to co-produce a Lived Experience workforce plan based on the National Development Guidelines and other key documents/resources. Ensure that the plan includes key performance indicators (KPIs) and timelines.

 

Develop position descriptions and recruitment processes

Designing appropriate recruitment processes ensures people are employed who have the required skills and knowledge for the role. Position descriptions assist this process by:

  • defining the role and making clear the uniqueness of Lived Experience work as distinct from other roles
  • supporting appropriate governance of the roles
  • ensuring consistency and making it easier for an organisation to understand what peer work is
  • identifying commonalities with other roles.

To make position descriptions meaningful, organisations first consider what Lived Experience roles will add to the organisation and how they will operate. While some flexibility and room for ‘improvisation’ on the part of Lived Experience workers is desirable to allow the role to be responsive and adaptable, too much ambiguity creates role confusion and can prohibit planning and resourcing for the roles. Position descriptions that are co-produced with Lived Experience workers/leaders and/or informed by Lived Experience-led sources are consistent with the values of the Lived Experience workforce. The companion document to the National Development Guidelines, ‘Lived Experience Roles: A Practical Guide to Designing and Developing Lived Experience Positions’ provides further details on how to develop position descriptions for a range of Lived Experience roles.

For effective recruitment of Lived Experience roles, in addition to the organisation’s HR officer or hiring manager, Lived Experience workers/leaders are involved in recruitment and selection processes. When there are no internal staff in designated roles, the assistance of external designated Lived Experience workers/leaders is sought. Non-designated members of the selection panel need to also hold strong awareness of concepts of personal recovery and understanding of the Lived Experience role..

Anti-discrimination legislation may initially seem a barrier to creating roles that specifically require lived experience. However, this is not the case. If the employee will be expected to draw on knowledge and skills specifically gained through having a lived experience, then lived experience is seen as essential knowledge and a genuine occupational requirement.

The Australian Human Rights Commission explains that identified positions support people who experience disadvantage in accessing equal opportunity in employment, as well as benefiting employers by enabling them to hire people with particular experiences and expertise. For this reason, all Commonwealth and jurisdictional anti-discrimination laws have simple processes enabling employers to apply for exemptions to legitimately create designated roles.
 

Ensure appropriate supervision for Lived Experience roles

Different types of supervision are needed for Lived Experience roles. Line management supervision typically focuses on organisational requirements and processes. While it is preferable for Lived Experience workers to be line managed by other Lived Experience workers, this may not always be possible. Specialised training to increase understanding of Lived Experience roles and recovery principles helps prepare managers. Preparing and empowering managers enhances knowledge and confidence for line-supervisors, resulting in more effective and authentic Lived Experience work.

Professional or role supervision for Lived Experience workers is focused on role clarity, or ‘how you do what you do’. It is imperative that Lived Experience workers receive role supervision from someone in a more senior Lived Experience position, who deeply understands the values, informing principles and challenges of the work.

In organisations where supervision by an experienced Lived Experience worker is not initially possible, options include:

  • seeking supplementary supervision from a Lived Experience peak body, a Lived Experience-run or led organisation or Lived Experience-run provider of training and supervision
  • sub-contracting with another organisation (or individual contractors) to hire senior Lived Experience workers to provide regular professional supervision.

As the Lived Experience workforce grows in organisations, multiple Lived Experience supervisors will be required. It is helpful to have several supervisors to promote choice for Lived Experience workers, and not overload one senior Lived Experience worker with the responsibility of providing supervision to all Lived Experience workers in a service.

Supervision with an experienced Lived Experience worker will provide the structure and safety to make the position successful and sustainable. An approach that promotes mutual two-way reflection on working practices is recommended.

Key actions include exploring options for appropriate line-management and professional/role supervision, ensuring that supervision demonstrates a mutual two-way reflection on working practices.

Provide adequate resourcing and professional development for Lived Experience including ongoing and accessible opportunities for traineeships, Lived Experience-led training, workshops, networking, conferences and participation in communities of practice.

Review Human Resources and other policies

For HR processes to be effective, HR personnel as well as organisational leadership need to understand the uniqueness and value of Lived Experience roles. In general, HR policies should be reviewed from a lived experience perspective but should apply to everyone. There should however be alternate polices for Lived Experience workers in relation to medication monitoring, writing progress notes and any form of restrictive or coercive practice.

Practice guidelines or policy are developed with lived experience guidance for practices that may be unique to Lived Experience roles, specifically in relation to any form of restrictive or coercive practice.

Even at these early stages, organisations plan for Lived Experience workers to increasingly co-create policy and procedures. This includes not only policies specific to Lived Experience work, but the workforce as a whole, particularly concerning employee wellbeing and challenging discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes.

Training and development

In addition to ensuring foundational training is periodically revisited, the intermediate stages introduce new training and professional development.

Training for implementation stages

Orientation, gaining mutual understanding and additional educational opportunities.

In preparation stages, the focus was on whole-ofworkforce training about lived experience. During implementation stages, training for Lived Experience workers is also provided or accessible. All Lived Experience workers receive adequate orientation as soon as possible upon starting work to allow them to understand and work effectively in the organisation/context. Opportunities for entry-level training are prioritised through state and national scholarships and/or paid for by individual organisations as part of professional development.

To ensure mutual respect and understanding across roles and to foster collaboration, designated Lived Experience staff are provided training to understand and value the unique contributions of colleagues in non-designated roles and vice versa. Opportunities for ongoing conversations are also provided to enable both designated Lived Experience workers and people in non-designated roles to better understand and value each other’s contribution. This includes opportunities to safely and respectfully ask ‘tricky questions’ and challenge myths and stereotypes.

At intermediate stages, a wider range of Lived Experience specific training and educational opportunities are available/emerging for various stages of career progression as with other professional groups.\ Training pathways developed for clinicians may be used or modified for the Lived Experience workforce. Importantly, training is affordable and accessible and continues to allow for multiple pathways into Lived Experience employment.

Maintaining multiple pathways rather than focusing on mandatory tertiary qualifications ensures people who have education disruption and/or other barriers, but still have appropriate work skills and aptitude are not excluded from the Lived Experience workforce.

Embedding trauma-informed practice and understanding of human rights assists a system’s shift towards minimising re-traumatisation and upholding the rights of people accessing services. Approaches include whole-of-sector training and/or inclusion of these topics in all higher education across all relevant disciplines.

Human rights training assists understanding of:

  • mental health and guardianship laws
  • the Declaration of Human Rights and Anti-discrimination laws
  • implications for practice.

Training also assists with understanding how mental health review tribunals and inquiries work, and how Lived Experience workers can assist people through these experiences.

Prioritise professional development and improving connections with Lived Experience networks

As with all employees, Lived Experience workers have individual professional development goals and plans. During intermediate stages, professional development allows for opportunities to share knowledge, resources and contemporary evidence, learn about and apply best practice and build networks. Organisations budget for and provide funds to allow access to external professional development including local, state and national opportunities, such as:

  • Lived Experience-facilitated supervision (if not available within the organisation)
  • participation in Lived Experience networks
  • Communities of Practice
  • attendance and participation in relevant conferences
  • continuing education
  • other opportunities for learning and reflective practice.

Lived Experience workers are encouraged to apply for scholarships to attend and participate in international events.

Training and development issues for Lived Experience workers in regional, rural and remote areas

To support, retain and grow Lived Experience workers in regional, rural and remote areas, funding bodies/policy makers and individual organisations focus on training and developmental opportunities for employees in these areas.

Strategies include:

  • Provision of Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work training
  • Routine and regular training and professional development opportunities
  • Options for career development and progression.

See Section 5 for a detailed discussion on Lived Experience work in regional and remote areas.

Training for Lived Experience workers and whole-of-workplace in involuntary settings

Lived Experience workforce in both involuntary and voluntary settings should receive training on mental health laws and the rights of people in involuntary settings, as well as understanding what is coercive practice. The whole-of-workplace receives training and clarity on the role of Lived Experience workforce within these settings. Training is provided to tribunal members, and individuals within the broader legal system, (i.e. lawyers and Legal Aid representatives), on the role of Lived Experience workers.

See Section 6 for a detailed discussion on Lived Experience work in involuntary settings.

Implementation actions

Table 5: Co-produce and embed action checklist for employers

 Area of focusWhat does it mean?
Leadership and workplace cultureAllyship with the Lived Experience workforceAllyship/championing by people at various levels helps to provide advocacy and practical actions to embed Lived Experience work and gain whole-of-workforce support and collaboration.
 Create a detailed Lived Experience workforce development strategyUse the National Development Guidelines and other resources to develop a Lived Experience workforce strategy with key performance indicators (KPI) and timelines.
 Strengthen commitment to diversity and inclusionActively support diversity e.g. by recruiting Lived Experience workers with diverse experiences, identifications and backgrounds. Build relationships with diverse communities.
Policies and planningDevelop an implementation plan with clear timeframes and responsibilitiesEnsure that plans take into consideration the support needs of Lived Experience workers, and the training needs of the whole workforce.
 Develop position descriptions and recruitment processesPosition descriptions and recruitment processes are co-produced with lived experience ensuring the creation of meaningful and authentic roles.
 Financial commitmentEnsure that budgets allow for sufficient numbers of roles and Full-Time Equivalencies.
Training and developmentOrientation trainingProvide orientation for Lived Experience workers consistent with all other members of the organisation
 Team development trainingTraining for Lived Experience and non-designated staff to develop mutual understanding of the different role types and how they are able to work together.
 Ensure access to appropriate supervisionEnsure access to Lived Experience supervision. This could be provided internally or externally. If there is no Lived Experience supervisor available, ensure that supervisors are trained in the concepts, values and principles of Lived Experience work.
 Prioritise professional development and improving connections with Lived Experience networksEnable access to external professional development and enable broad opportunities for Lived Experience workers to gain and share knowledge/resources/best practice and build networks.

Note: This summary represents key actions that any employer may take to develop and embed a Lived Experience workforce. Actions for organisations with specific interests, including regional and rural services, involuntary services, and service planning and funding appear in separate checklists throughout the National Development Guidelines.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.

Diversity

The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.