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Peer support for employment: a review of the evidence

Libby McEnhill, Karen Steadman and Zofia Bajorek
24 May 2016


Peer support is the process through which people with similar experiences support one another, both emotionally and practically. For those with disabilities or health conditions, peer support can be a highly beneficial component of a treatment plan, and as such it is reasonably widely used.


Peers who share experience of health conditions and disabilities can promote hope and belief in the possibility of recovery, empower individuals, increase self-esteem and self-management, as well as social networks. Whilst these outcomes have advantages on their own, they are also associated with improved employment outcomes.

Although there are significant pockets of peer support activity orientated towards employment operating across the UK and beyond, the evidence base for this form of employment support is still at an early stage. A literature review was conducted, aiming to find out what we know about how and if peer support works in supporting employment outcomes, and identifying gaps in the research.

This report focuses on summarising eleven academic studies, and ‘grey’ literature, focusing on studies where shared experience of disability or long-term conditions was emphasised.

This report is accompanied by a report published by Disability Rights UK (DRUK) who make a number of recommendations to support and strengthen the practice of peer support for disabled people or those with long-term conditions in terms of employment. 

A briefing paper which combines the findings of both The Work Foundation and Disability Rights UK's respective reports and the joint recommendations.

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