Dr Liz Oliver

Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change

Learning-by-doing together: a community-university participatory research partnership to employ peer support workers (PSWs) with learning disabilities in community supported accommodation

Responsive Mode Impact Fund


This pilot project takes an existing idea, a ‘peer support worker’ (PSW) model of employment and translates it to a new context.

Over 250 PSWs are employed in mental health services where their value is widely recognised (repper et al 2013a and 2013b). Evaluation of these initiatives found PSW posts benefitted service users, PSWs, and the teams they work in (Repper and Cater 2011, Repper et al 2013a).

The new context is services for people with learning disabilities (services offering supported accommodation). The importance of peer support for people with learning disabilities is gaining recognition (Keyes and Brandon 2011). Moreover, policy initiatives highlight the public sector’s role in promoting the employment of people with learning disabilities (e.g. NHS Learning Disability Employment Programme).

Employing people with learning disabilities as PSWs in learning disability services has transformative potential (for: the person gaining a job; the service user gaining a role model, and the organisation getting a better balance of power). Taken together the effect could be profound. This project is an action research study with three partner organisations and a commitment to co-production of research with people with learning disabilities. It is designed to co-produce new knowledge that can be used by others.