Taking part in the Peer Leadership Academy has been by far one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I have ever done.

As someone who has been working as a peer support worker for some time, the title of this course sparked my interest straight away, however when I read into it a bit more I was unsure if I was a suitable candidate. As someone’s who’s personal experience and working life has been in mental health services, terms such as “social prescribing” or “shared decision making” were practically alien to me.

I decided to apply regardless as I had nothing to lose, and was pleasantly surprised to be offered an interview. I was made to feel very comfortable in my interview, with a member of the interview panel disclosing some of their own lived experience, I immediately felt at ease.

I was contacted just a few days later and offered a place on the course, all travel and accommodation was handled for me, meaning all I had to do was get there and be ready to learn and share.

I was initially nervous as I felt I had little knowledge or experience of things such as personal health budgets, however I quickly realised that no one was judging me for a lack of knowledge, in fact they were giving me all of the knowledge I needed.

I was in a room full of people with various backgrounds, physical disabilities, mental health conditions, carers, etc. Yet all of us had one common goal…to give people power over their own care!

The Peer Leadership Academy allowed me to expand my knowledge of personalised care, meaning that I am able to provide better care for the people whom I support through my work.

It taught me the value of coproduction and that absolutely anyone can make a difference.
It empowered me to ask questions and speak up when it comes to my own health and wellbeing.

Most importantly it opened my eyes to the world of personal health budgets and the difference they can make to people’s lives. A right to have for patients under a section 117 of the Mental Health Act is soon going to be actioned and the academy has given me the confidence to inform health professionals about this to work together on giving people choice and control over their healthcare.

If you’re reading this questioning whether or not the Peer Leadership Academy is for you, I urge you to apply. I wish I had done it years ago, in fact I wish it was mandatory for everyone to attend this course. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t benefit in some way from this experience.