Peer Support as a tool for belonging

Saturday, November 2, 2013
First author:
Juultje Holla
Belonging: Identity & Empowerment

Perspectief, Utrecht, the Netherlands

All authors:


Juultje Holla, Mario Nossin
Peer support, advocacy, empowerment


To develop training opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to become peer supporters. As part of a European project of Inclusion Europe called TOPSIDE, Stichting Perspectief and the Landelijke Federatie Belangenbehartiging (LFB) have developed training opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, enabling them to support others who experience similar life situations. Peer supporters can be examples to others. After the training people with learning disabilities can support others to have a greater sense of belonging, to be stronger and to have a say in their own life's choices. The training has a focus on inclusion, having your own say and valued social roles.


The training is accessible for up to 8 people with intellectual disabilities at a time. We have based the training on Tony Booth’s Index for Inclusion. We have used life topics, such as friends, home, leisure, and work to explain concepts such as inclusion, valued social roles and person centered thinking. Each of the 8 days in the training relates to one topic. Around these topics we have created exercises to teach skills people need to become good peer supporters. Furthermore, we use examples of other people to show belonging and how life can be for people with intellectual disabilities.


Peer supporters leave the training with more courage and self belief, with skills to support others in their unique life situations and with an understanding of the importance of belonging. They also leave with a portfolio, a file of good examples that can be used, and a toolbox with posters and questions they can use to get to know and support others.


People with intellectual disabilities, given the right type of training, are very capable of learning the skills needed to become good peer supporters, to support other people with intellectual disabilities with their own experience.


Tony Booth and Mel Ainscow (2002), Index for Inclusion, CSIE Ld, Bristol, Revised edition. Wolfensberger, W. (1998). A Brief Introduction to Social Role Valorization. A higher-order concept for addressing the plight of societally devalued people, and for structuring human services. Syracuse, NY: Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership & Change Agentry (Syracuse University). Michael Smull, (2011) in Conversations on Citizenship and Person Centred Work (Eds John O'Brien and Carol Blessing), Inclusion Press, Vol III pp45-55. (The theories underpinning our training are many. These publications just give an idea of what is behind this training.)