Consumer and Family Carer Workforce Development
The Victorian consumer and family carer lived experience (peer) workforces are valued, resourced and supported in their work.
Why ‘Peer Inside?’
Peer work is a collective term for a broad range of roles where either consumer or carer lived experience is an essential requirement. In Victoria, this is often referred to as lived experience work because the phrase peer work is often used to describe peer support work, rather than the broad range of roles that comprise consumer and carer work.
- Consumer and family carer workers, this page gives you access to tools and support to help you navigate being a ‘peer inside’ mental health services.
- Managers, coordinators and colleagues this page helps you ‘peer inside’ and access training and information about consumer or family carer work.
Who are the lived experience (peer) workforces?
Consumer and family and carer lived experience work (Downes and Edan 2017)
The consumer workforce
Consumer workers are people in paid positions that require a lived experience of mental health issues as an essential part of the selection criteria. Other skills and knowledge are required depending on the type of consumer role.
Consumer workers may provide direct support to consumers through peer support or advocacy, or indirectly through leadership, system advocacy, education, and research.
The family carer workforce
Family and carer workers have lived experience of caring for family or friends who experience mental health issues, and are employed in mental health services. Lived experience as a ‘carer’ is an essential part of the selection criteria, with other skills and knowledge required depending on the role.
Family carer workers support people who are in a consumers ‘family’ (including family of choice), some of whom may identify as carers. Family carer workers provide support directly through providing peer support or advocacy, or indirectly through leadership, system advocacy, education, and research.
For more information about lived experience work in Victoria see:
Coming soon: Introduction to peer support work (PDF)
Coming soon: Introduction to peer support work (DOC)
What do we do?
The Consumer Workforce Development Coordinator and the Family Carer Workforce Development Coordinator are key team members of the CMHL. We work closely with consumer and family carer workers, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), training organisations, health services, and peak bodies to support the development of the mental health lived consumer and family carer workforces in Victoria.
Our work is informed by the following frameworks:
- Human rights and rights-based practice
- Co-production and co-design
- Trauma informed
- Intentional Peer Support
- Recovery oriented practice
Current priorities and work
Workforce Development Strategies
Mental Health Consumer Workforce Strategy
A Consumer Workforce Development Strategy has been created with leadership from the Consumer Workforce Development Group. This group has worked in partnership with DHHS to provide direction and advice for policy and initiatives that relate to the consumer workforce. Members of the Consumer Workforce Development Group are all consumer workers experienced across a range of roles, except for those who are department members.
Mental Health Family Carer Workforce Strategy
In collaboration with family carer workforce, the Carer Workforce Development Group have developed a vision for the family carer workforce. Practical steps to make the vision a reality have been mapped out and are contained within this Strategy.
Members of the Carer Workforce Development Group are family carer workers experienced across a range of roles, and two DHHS members.
The Strategies are live action plans with stewardship held by key workforce partners (listed in alphabetical order):
- The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University
- Carer Lived Experience Workforce Network
- Centre for Mental Health Learning
- Centre for Psychiatric Nursing, Melbourne University
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Mental Health Victoria
- Self Help Addiction Resource Centre
- Victorian Dual Diagnosis Initiative Leadership Group
- Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council
Research shows that a fundamental element for successful establishment of lived experience roles is organisation commitment and action to create an environment where lived experience roles are fully understood, genuinely valued and authorised to operate in line with consumer and family carer values.
A range of activities including review of: recruitment processes, role descriptions and policies. Discipline specific supervision and training are also required to ensure that the organisation is ready to employ to any consumer and family carer role. This includes training for management and other disciplines which can uncover some of the complexities unique to working as a person with lived experience within the mental health sector. These activities must be done with leadership from those suitably experienced in consumer or family carer work.
CMHL consumer and family carer leadership and collaboration
We are currently undertaking consultation to design, develop and implement consumer and family carer leadership process and structures to inform the work of the CMHL and the development and support of the lived experience workforces.
Consumer and family carer perspective supervision
Consumer and family carer perspective supervisors can provide supervision to other peer workers as well as to others working in mental health services. Provision of supervision from experienced lived experience workers is an urgent issue.
Consumer perspective supervision framework
In 2015, a workshop on consumer perspective supervision held at the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) workforce conference highlighted that a lack of expert, discipline-specific, consumer perspective supervision was a key risk to the workforce. In response to this the Centre for Psychiatric Nursing (CPN), VMIAC and independent consumer leaders approached the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to collaborate on a project that would uncover and articulate the particular support needs of the consumer workforce and contribute to addressing those support needs.
Consumer perspective supervision: a framework for supporting consumer workers (the Framework) forms one part of the overall project. It is intended to guide supervisees, supervisors and organisations in undertaking strong processes to support consumer perspective supervision by outlining the specific functions, importance and benefits of consumer perspective supervision.
Consumer-led and family carer-led innovation grants
A Consumer-led and Family Carer-led Workforce Innovation Grant Program was established by the Department to support innovation projects related to workforce development. Our roles support the awarded projects that are now underway.
More information about the grants and the projects can be viewed on the DHHS website.
Networks and communities of practice
It is essential for consumer and family carer workers to be connected with others doing this type of work as a means of practice development, knowledge and resource sharing, reduce workplace isolation and to help protect against ‘peer drift’.
Mutuality an underpinning value, vital to the culture of the consumer and family carer workforces. Lived experience work has grown significantly in recent years however numbers are still low and a consumer or family carer worker may be the only consumer or family carer worker in their particular type of role in their organisation, or even in their geographic region.
As well as supporting people to establish face to face networks, we host a number of online communities of practice through Basecamp (online project management platform) for those with similar roles to connect and share information and experiences and learn together. Currently we host online communities of practice for: Peer Support Workers
Additionally, we hold networking and practice development events throughout the year as resourcing allows and as prioritised by the needs of the workforce.
To find out more, please contact us.
Family Carer Workforce Development Coordinator
Hi, I’m Lorna Downes. I have been the Family Carer Workforce Development Coordinator since the roles began in November 2016. My background is in family carer peer support, education and advocacy.
I have been involved in the development and delivery of the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work, as well as workshops about peer work, recovery-oriented practice, trauma informed care, and family carer representation. I have also delivered training for mental health and community workers about working with families and carers, and telegroup counselling facilitator training. I am an accredited Intentional Peer Support (IPS) core skills facilitator and an emotional CPR (eCPR) apprentice facilitator. I'm excited about the potential for people to create mutually supportive relationships.
My work is grounded in my experience of caring about family and friends affected by mental distress and substance use. Family peer support and carer education were lifesaving for me and supporting family carer workers to provide these powerful gifts is an honour and privilege.