A report highlighting the experiences of peer supporters who deliver, and parents who receive, one-to-one perinatal peer support through Connected CIC

Project report


Dace, A., Barnes, C. and Montague, J. 2024. A report highlighting the experiences of peer supporters who deliver, and parents who receive, one-to-one perinatal peer support through Connected CIC. Derby University of Derby. https://doi.org/10.48773/q4w64
AuthorsDace, A., Barnes, C. and Montague, J.
TypeProject report
Abstract

Connected Perinatal Support CIC (from hereon in Connected) provides perinatal peer support services across Derby. It offers families assistance in a range of ways, from one-to-one peer support, and in-person and online community groups, including a support group for fathers, provided by volunteers (from hereon in peer supporters). In 2022 - following funding from Public Health at Derby City Council, Connected and the European Development Fund (ERDF) - the University of Derby were invited to evaluate the experiences of peer supporters who deliver one-to-one peer support and the parents who receive it. The evaluation forms part of a wider piece of work and a PhD conducted by Angela Dace; supervised by Drs Christopher Barnes and Jane Montague at the University.

In this report, we document the findings from interviews conducted between November 2022 and February 2023. The results offer readers an insight into how peer support was conceptualised by participants and the importance it played in their lives; this includes what peer support looked like in practice, what they gained from peer support and any challenges they experienced.

Peer-supporter experiences
Our findings show that, for those who deliver one-to-one perinatal peer support, it is a predominantly positive experience with multiple clear benefits. When referring to their role, peer supporters positioned themselves as being both a friend and a professional. The training delivered by Connected, and the robustness of the support received, was seen as being pivotal to the success and quality of the support they, in turn, could offer to parents. Peer supporters placed a strong emphasis on skill development during training; in particular, they highlighted the importance of personal reflection and knowledge development. Peer supporters felt valued by Connected; they gained confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and for some it had facilitated a positive change in their own lives, making changes to partner relationships, and equipped them with the skills and experience when transitioning to paid employment both within Connected and external organisations.

It was clear that peer support, for the vast majority, was about responding to parents in a way that would empower them to successfully manage their own lives. However, there were some differences in the way this was viewed by peer supporters. For example, some believed that empowerment was facilitated best when the peer supporter had their own relatable and shared experiences of parenthood. Others felt that empathy and understanding was a key attribute, whilst some thought that relationship development and listening skills were crucial.

There were some challenges to the role of peer supporters. For example, managing professional boundaries in the peer supporter-parent relationship: gauging the extent and limit of support provided, managing how support ended, and balancing their own commitments against being available for parents as needed.

Parental Experiences
Parents who took part in this study spoke about the broad range of support they received, including: (i) preparing for birth and parenthood, e.g., information on labour; (ii) supporting with perinatal mental health experiences, e.g., normalising experiences: (iii) getting out and about with confidence, e.g., being alongside parents and going out together, including to community groups to meet other parents.

When parents spoke about the peer support they had received a majority described feeling doubtful initially about the potential value it would give them. A small number of parents also viewed the acceptance of help as questioning their ability to be a good parent. Despite feeling this way at the outset, all parents went on to subsequently report that peer support far exceeded their expectations. They felt their peer supporter was someone who approached them without an agenda and who listened attentively to their needs. Parents generally thought that a peer supporter’s experience of parenthood was useful to fulfil their role, though a small number did not hold this view. Importantly, the parenthood experience is wide-ranging and the experiences that parents valued within peer support differed according to their own needs and circumstances, e.g., having a peer supporter with perinatal mental health experience or who had given birth via C-Section.

In a similar way to peer supporters, parents also found it difficult when managing the end of the support relationship. Indeed, for parents, this was because of the close relationships they had formed with their peer supporters. At the time, all parents were made aware that the end of support was approaching, but many said that this still did not prepare them emotionally when the final day arrived. It is important to note that, even though parents felt this way, they also felt that the strategies that had been used by peer supporters to help manage the end were transparent and they had been successfully supported with further onward signposting for any ongoing needs. Furthermore, the opportunity to attend Connected community groups following one-to-one support was available and was helpful for some parents in buffering the end of one-to-one support. A minority raised concerns relating to a perceived lack of professional involvement within these groups, though this is most likely the result of the change in the type of support rather than the quality of support received.

The findings section of this report provides a full analysis of the interview data and explores the one-to-one perinatal peer support service received through the Connected.

Furthermore, we make several recommendations:
· To further explore the importance that peer supporters with experience of parenthood has on the parent-peer supporter relationship.
· To put processes in place during training or ongoing monitoring that ensures peer supporters fully meet parents’ support needs.
· To develop peer-support skills in managing endings.
· To consider whether there are appropriate times when peer supporters can shadow experienced ones.
· To ensure that professionals at all levels are aware of the existence of Connected’s support provision for professional services where support agreements are in place.

In conclusion, all of those who participated, either providing or receiving Connected one-to-one perinatal peer support, reported a positive and beneficial experience. Participants’ experiences have given insight into how one-to-one support may be further developed. Although not part of the research itself, feedback on providing hospital and community group support also provided useful considerations for relationship development between services and management of Connected community groups.

KeywordsConnected community groups; Connected Perinatal Support CIC; Perinatal peer support
Year2024
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Place of publicationDerby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/q4w64
FunderEuropean Regional Development Fund
Derby City Council
Connected Perinatal Support CIC
File
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online21 Feb 2024
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Feb 2024

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