Peer support project ENSURE’s future skills for adults with Autism

Adult with laptop talking

After a successful 12 months, Kent County Council’s (KCC) Interreg 2 Seas funded ENSURE project has trained and provided 19 peer supporters for adults with Autism in Kent.

After a successful 12 months, Kent County Council’s (KCC) Interreg 2 Seas funded ENSURE project has trained and provided 19 peer supporters for adults with Autism in Kent.

The project piloted a new model of support for adults with autism and was delivered on behalf of Kent County Council, by partners Advocacy for All.

It focused on training people with lived experience to become peer supporters who could provide advice, guidance and encouragement to others experiencing similar life challenges to their own.

The project successfully helped participants to develop the key skills needed to support others facing similar challenges every day, including employment, and reduce social isolation.

As the pilot project draws to a close in March 2023, one participant has reflected on his experience and the skills he will take forward as a result:

Lawrence is a member of Advocacy for All groups. Since joining the ENSURE initiative, he has successfully progressed from attending the Canterbury Social Group with the Kent Autism Project, to achieving a paid role with Advocacy for All.

“I was asked if I would like to do the ENSURE training. I had already decided that I would like to start trying to help people.”

Lawrence attended the first round of training because, as he said, “I was interested to see if I could grow as a peer supporter”. He was very helpful in providing feedback and evaluating the course which enabled the ENSURE trainers to make some useful adjustments to the course content and delivery.

When asked about his experience of the course he said, “I enjoyed it immensely and it was very educational. I am now using the ENSURE training in the Touch Base project. I use it in my paid work for 10 hours per month.”

While the pilot has ended with KCC, Advocacy for All, our delivery partner, is hoping to continue this work and their team is already using the learning within their current projects. KCC will also use this learning to consider how this approach continues.

The Touch Base project provides support for people who have a diagnosis of, or are awaiting evaluation for, Autism or Asperger’s and who are experiencing significant mental health difficulties.

Here, Lawrence provides peer support as a person with lived experience of both Autism and schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, by organising games groups and acting as a regular reliable contact for people who are in danger of going into a state of crisis. Lawrence explains: “The role gives me something to look forward to, it gives me the motivation to get on with life. I have a role where my life experience can be of help to others.”

Find useful information and support for people with autism here: Austism Support

The Interreg 2 Seas ENSURE Project had its Final Conference in Antwerp on 17 November 2022. The group included project leads from Kent County Council Adult Social Care, members of staff from The Education People, who were fundamental in putting together the ‘Peer Supporter Training in the UK’ partnership, and Advocacy for All, the advocacy organisation who have successfully implemented the Peer Supporting principles in Kent.

Kent County Council member Clair Bell

Interreg funded projects like ENSURE give us the opportunity to work with and learn from partners across Europe.

Clair Bell Kent County Council (KCC) Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health

Clair Bell continued: " This event was a celebration of the project's achievements over the past two years, helping us to think about how we take this learning forward to promote inclusion and support for people that need it most in our communities."

Note for editors or Further information

Interreg 2 Seas:

Interreg 2 Seas 2014-2020 is a European Territorial Cooperation Programme covering England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders). The Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and has a total of €241m (£203m) ERDF to co-finance projects in the 2014 - 2020 period.