Peer support is one of the pillars of Independent Living and an essential element for the self-determination of disabled people. Therefore, in 2016, it was one of the areas of work that the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) focused on. ENIL carried out a survey and organized a training – both of which you can learn more about below.
The survey aimed to obtain information about disabled people’s access to peer support in Europe, and the ways in which peer support is provided. Differences between countries were to be identified, as well as the main gaps in the provision of peer support. The survey questions can be found here. Twenty six respondents completed the survey, from the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK (Wales and Scotland).
Results of the ENIL survey indicate that the concept of ‘peer support’ is still not well known in many European countries, and that peer support lacks state funding. Therefore disabled people’s organisations look for alternatives, i.e. project funding. The survey also shows that disabled people themselves and their organisations lack understanding about the importance of peer support. The rest of the results, together with conclusions and recommendations can be found in the survey report, at this link.
The other activity aiming to promote peer support at the European level was the Peer Support Training organized by ENIL and CIL Sofia, which took place in Sofia on 24-25 September 2016. A group of 15 disabled people from 10 countries participated in the event, and were engaged in discussions on the principles of peer support, the role and responsibilities of peer supporters and the development of peer support in Europe. The ten represented countries were: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania and Serbia. Trainers were experts on the right to Independent Living from Bulgaria – Kapka Panayotova, Sweden – Jamie Bolling, and the United Kingdom – Zara Todd. After the event, the training participants had the opportunity to attend the international conference “Independent Living and Peer Support – the Core of UN CRPD”, organised by CIL Sofia.
Barriers and challenges for the realization of peer support in the different countries were identified and a common definition of ‘peer support’ was agreed by all training participants. Towards the training’s end, a set of recommendations was formulated. You can read more about the training in this article.
After this event, the Facebook group ‘ENIL Peer Support’ was established – a place where the topic could be further discussed and information can be shared. The Peer Support Training Manual, produced in 2014, will be updated early next year. The 2014 version is available here.
Peer support is central to the philosophy and practice of Independent Living and to the effective implementation of Article 19 of the CRPD – Living Independently and Being Included in the Community. Therefore, ENIL will continue its work on peer support in the future, with the hope for better results at European and national levels.
For further information on ENIL activities, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.