The Lived Experience Workforce in South Australian Public Mental
Health Services Central Adelaide Local Health Network
What we have learned, what we have achieved and future direction
Peer Specialist (BA Psychology and Masters Social Work)
Coordinator Lived Experience Workforce Program
Published by Central Adelaide Local Health Network
Mental Health Directorate Adelaide, South Australia May 2014
The 2010 National Mental Health Strategy states that consumers and carers should be actively involved in the development, planning, delivery and evaluation of services. In South Australia, a recovery focus has become a cornerstone of mental health with an emphasis on consumer and carer participation at all levels of policy, planning, service delivery and evaluation.
In employing peer workers within mental health services there is an acknowledgement of the expertise of lived experience and how this can be used to offer hope, empower, support and educate consumers and carers who are navigating mental health services. The employment of lived experience workers either working with consumers or carers within acute rehabilitation and inpatient units may also assist mental health services to actively enhance recovery oriented service provision. Lived experience workers who work alongside multidisciplinary clinicians may have a role in educating staff and consumers, reducing stigma and assisting services to work in partnership with people with mental illness and their families.
The introduction of employees with a lived experience either as a consumer or as a carer is an example of innovative practice that adds value to the professionally trained clinical workforce as well as to consumers and their families.
The overarching aim of the evaluation of the lived experience workforce within South Australian government mental health services was to assess the impact of the Mental Health Directorate’s (MHD) Lived Experience Workforce (LEW) Program (carer consultants and peer specialists) in rehabilitation and acute inpatient units in South Australia in order to explore program strengths, challenges and future developments. The MHD’s Lived Experience Workforce Program is made up of a non-clinical workforce who utilise their lived experience as either a consumer (peer specialist) or carer/family member (carer consultant) to empower, support and enhance clinical mental health service delivery in South Australia. The research assessed consumers, a small number of carers, as well as multidisciplinary clinical mental health service staff and managers perceptions of the peer specialist and carer consultant roles. The research also assessed peer specialists, carer consultants and the clinicians who supervise the LEW staff on particular units’ perceptions of the roles and the program.