Define your peer support program scope
Define your peer support program scope
There are a number of factors to consider when planning and designing Peer Support Programs, and decisions to be made that will help to determine the scope of the activities.
Peer support can include a range of activities, from informal conversation between peers, through to formal activities that might involve trained and paid peer support workers. It can take place in person, or over the telephone or internet. It can be between two people, a small group or within a large group.31
Peer support activities can be delivered in different settings such as schools, community centres, and youth clubs.
There is no one size fits all approach.
Peer support is flexible and can - and should - be tailored to suit the individual needs of the young people who will be involved in the program.
LDATs can use the prompts in the steps listed below to guide discussions and define the scope of their Peer Support Program. Alternatively, LDATs may choose to link with existing alcohol and other drug peer support activities that have been shown to work.
Whether LDATs are delivering an existing program or developing new Peer Support Programs and activities, it is important that all activities incorporate good practice principles, and encourage young people’s ownership.
Steps to designing peer support activities
1. Target audience
It's important to define the target audience of Peer Support Programs.
All young people can potentially benefit from Peer Support Programs, and activities can be designed to consider the interests, needs and aspirations of various target audiences or groups.
Generally speaking, peer support activities help younger adolescents (e.g. aged around 12-15 years) develop skills, understanding, confidence and self-awareness.
Peer support is particularly beneficial for young people who are socially isolated and those who are experiencing life transitions, such as:
- primary to secondary school
- secondary school to tertiary education institutions (e.g. universities and TAFEs)
- into the workforce
- through adolescence, generally.
When defining your target audience, be specific and gain an understanding of their current knowledge, attitudes, practices and experiences concerning the issue you are trying to address. This includes understanding the characteristics of your target group, such as:
- language/s spoken
- geographic locality
- interest and occupation
- level of education
- health status
- specific needs
- other relevant characteristics.
2. Universal versus targeted
Decide if your Peer Support Program will be universal or targeted.
Universal Peer Support Programs provide support across a whole population of young people, for example a whole school or year group.
Targeted Peer Support Programs provide support to specific groups of young people where there are known risk factors for alcohol and other drug harms.22
Determine the approach of your program. Your program may have more than one approach. The approach should align with the program objectives and the outcomes you are trying to achieve.
Peer support approaches:
- peer education programs train members in a particular subject to pass that information to other members of the peer group
- peer mentoring programs use a more experienced peer to assist and guide a less experienced peer by sharing their knowledge and experience
- peer tutoring involves individuals from similar social networks assisting each other to learn, and learn themselves, by teaching, usually in one-on-one sessions
- peer leadership initiatives have capable individuals providing guidance for their peer group in various ways: as role model, educator or mentor.23
4. Delivery method
Select a delivery method. Peer support activities can be delivered in different ways. Some programs may choose to use a combination of face-to-face and online support. LDATs may have a preferred delivery method or leave this for the program participants to discuss and decide.
The peer support sessions are held in person, face to face.
Electronic peer support uses technology to connect peers for more immediate and accessible peer support. This can be using websites and apps, phone or text based, or online using video technology (e.g. Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams).
Select a relationship.
One peer supporter matched with one young person. This might include drop-in support or targeted interventions with a referral scheme.
One peer supporter matched with multiple young people. This might be for a targeted group or peer-led training and sharing of expertise across their school, university or community setting.
Two or more peer supporters matched with one young person.
Choose the setting or location of program activities. Peer support activities are flexible and can be delivered in different settings. The setting chosen may impact on operational aspects of the program such as recruitment, supervision and monitoring. It may also have further implications on policies and procedures. LDATs may have a preferred setting or leave this for the program participants to discuss and decide.
Schools, universities and TAFEs
Peer support activities occur on the premises of the educational institution.
Recreation and sporting facilities
Peer support activities occur in recreation and sporting facilities, clubs and venues.
Youth centres and clubs
Peer support occurs in youth centres and clubs (e.g. homework clubs, social groups).
Peer support occurs within the local community, using community spaces such as parks, cafes, libraries, community houses, etc.
Peer support occurs in other appropriate site-based locations.
7. Duration and frequency
Consider the frequency and duration of the activities. Also decide on the length of your Peer Support Program.
Existing peer support activity
LDATs may choose to link with existing alcohol and other drug peer support activities that have been shown to work.
Some examples of activities LDATs have used include: