The added value of peer support for organisations

What are we talking about?

Peer support has a twofold interest for organisations. Indeed, we can observe that peer support (PS) generates benefits specific to the institution itself and benefits specific to the relationship between the employees of the institution and the peer helpers.

First of all, for the institution, the PA provides a resource person, with a strong anchoring and expertise from a field that is not as well mastered by the organisation as by the peer helper himself. The project is generally supported from its conception by the professional teams who must be involved throughout the process of setting up peer support.

 

Secondly, with regard to the links between employees and peer carers, the implementation of peer support allows the pair to complement other members of staff. This promotes understanding and strengthens cohesion between the professional teams and the peer helpers. The latter thus becomes a partner and not just a beneficiary. The whole process, from recruitment to integration and consolidation of the position, is carried out without resistance from the professional teams when they are fully integrated into the process.

Moreover, AP has an interest that goes far beyond the employee/peer-helper relationship. In particular, it contributes to :

 

Reducing anxiety-inducing stress for staff

The contact with a vulnerable public with difficult life paths, strongly mobilises the emotional involvement of the staff. This relationship is sometimes aggravated by conflicts, misunderstandings or incomprehension. The tension caused by waiting for a response to the asylum application naturally raises the problem of the mental burden in which most asylum seekers live: worrying about the risk of a refusal. Social workers may experience transference and counter-transference, affects and emotions. The inclusion of a peer helper in the team frees professionals from a strong anxiety-provoking pressure based on a reduction of the emotional and psychological load of the employees and volunteers by the peer helper. Indeed, by providing support to users, the peer helper alleviates certain painful situations and brings more peace to both employees and users.

 

Awareness of peer helpers' autonomy from the organisation

The integration of peer helpers into the team has allowed them to have more freedom and to be more autonomous, just like other users. On the one hand, the dissemination of knowledge and simple daily life practices, which is often time-consuming for the CADAs, was accelerated by the peer helpers. This is particularly true for learning French, dealing with everyday administrative procedures, knowing how to use public transport, enrolling in schools, explaining the importance of medical appointments, etc.

On the other hand, the creation of an AP protocol has made it possible to grant peer helpers a peer helper certificate in some CADAs. This facilitates their social integration, strengthens their self-confidence and enables them to be recognised by society through various opportunities (translation, social work, resumption of studies, etc.). This contributes to facilitating the work of the CADA in supporting people on their way out.

Peer helpers have therefore demonstrated a real role in calming and facilitating the organisation by positioning themselves as :

     ✅decoders and regulators of intercultural conflicts,

     ✅the disseminators of a caring spirit between employees, volunteers and migrants,

     ✅factors favourable to an improved quality of working life

Boost their own career path by promoting their social (with others), personal (self-confidence) and professional (a future job or training leading to a qualification) autonomy through pai-aid.

 

The integration of a new model of management by management and "slow management"

AP is a proactive practice where the manager has to reflect on his own managerial posture and position. He has a global vision of the competences of his collaborators (employees, volunteers, peer helpers, users) and must implement a form of management based on the mobilisation of each of these actors, within the limits of their fields of competence. This calls into question traditional management models in which decisions and actions are orchestrated solely in a vertical manner. The AHR is overturning these codes and introducing a new management mode which consists in reconciling the work of professionals, volunteers, users and peer helpers (circular and/or horizontal management).

Example of application

In 2016, as part of the call for projects “social innovation in the field of accommodation and access to housing” led by the Interministerial Delegation for Accommodation and Access to Housing. The Association d’Aide au Logement des Sans-abri (ALSA) in Mulhouse recruited a peer helper to work in tandem with a monitor educator to co-lead a community space with other professionals. The peer worker’s mission was defined as a professional added value complementary to that of the other employees. The peer helper was responsible for welcoming isolated people who were very marginal and vulnerable. His or her support consisted of helping these people with their administrative or social procedures and providing a collective and friendly space for these users.  

This approach enabled the organisation to have a resource person, with a strong anchoring and expertise from a field that was not as well mastered by the organisation as by the peer helper himself, a former user. The project was supported from the outset by the professional teams, who were involved throughout the process right up to recruitment.

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