Planning

LDATs may choose to link with existing AOD peer support programs that have been shown to work. 

Existing or new intervention

You may find other programs through peak bodies for youth, local health services or by drawing on local knowledge and networks. There may be a number of existing peer support programs in place in your community (e.g. buddy program in the local secondary school) that you can support and build on.

A number of existing peer support programs in Australia are listed below:

  • Save-a-mate promotes the health and wellbeing of young people by providing education, service and support on key current and emerging health issues, particularly those related to alcohol and other drug use and mental health. Save-a-mate engages young people to provide peer support at events such as music festivals. 
  • Whitelion Peer Support Program is a peer support program focused on early intervention, Whitelion Peer Support Program linking older students to younger students, and has run in Victoria for over 20 years. 
  • Peer Support Australia is a peer-led, skills-based, experiential learning program with a focus on mental health that has been offered in schools for over 30 years. 
  • IMPACT is a program supports young people from Year 10 onwards to become leaders in their communities. The program targets Indigenous youth in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and is delivered by the Foundation for Young Australians
  • A directory of peer support programs in Victoria can be accessed at peersupportvic.org

Once you have found existing peer support programs, it may be useful to seek out further information directly from the organisation to find out if a partnership or delivery pathway is possible in your community. 

Be mindful that there are numerous examples of peer support programs that focus on AOD treatment and recovery, which is outside the scope of the LDAT Program and its focus on preventing alcohol and drug issues before they occur.

You might want to consider the following questions (some answers may be available online, others you may have to seek directly from the organisation): 

  • Is the peer support program available in your geographic area? If face-to-face delivery is not available, is remote access an option? 
  • Has the peer support program been shown to be effective at building positive peer relationships and reducing and preventing AOD harms? What evidence is available to demonstrate this? 
  • Does the program focus on the prevention of AOD harms (not treatment or recovery)? 
  • Does the program align with your community needs? 
  • How are young people matched with peers? 
  • What processes are in place to select and screen peer leaders? 
  • What training and support is offered to peer leaders?

Due to the limited number of existing peer support programs available and the need for tailored approaches, many LDATs will work with partners to develop and deliver a targeted peer support program in their community. See Resources required section below and Delivering peer support programs: Key Steps for insight into what is required when developing new approaches. 

Peer support 2

What works and doesn’t work

Peer support programs can help to shape young people’s behaviours, knowledge and attitudes to alcohol and other drugs and whether and how they use them, but the way peer support is used makes a big difference. 


What works

AOD peer support programs are most effective when approaches are based on principles of effective practice:

  • Empowers young people to support each other
  • Provides a range of different ways, and gives people a choice about how they participate
  • Provides authentic leadership opportunities for peer leaders
  • Delivered by peer leaders who are resourced adequately to deliver the program
  • Delivered as part of a broader, comprehensive community approach to preventing AOD harms
  • Provides a safe and supportive environment and positive peer relationship
  • Focuses on developing interpersonal skills
  • Supports positive cultural change
  • Provides factual and accurate information that is meaningful to the young person’s social network
  • Responds to local needs and is culturally appropriate.


What doesn't work

AOD peer support programs have been shown to be ineffective and increase interest in drug use when it is based on:

  • Scare tactics or ‘fear arousal’
  • A didactic (rather than interactive) delivery style
  • One-off, isolated programs.

Setting objectives

Setting objectives for your Community Action Plan is an important part of the LDAT planning process.

Some example objectives for peer support programs are provided below. Groups can develop their own objectives, although you may find these a useful starting point:

  • Recruit and train peer leaders over a six-month period
  • Engage two schools in the next 12 months to deliver peer support programs to their students
  • Deliver peer support at two community events in the next 12 months
  • Increase levels of self-confidence among young people
  • Increase awareness of the harms of risky drinking and drug use among young people
  • Strengthen positive social connections in the community
  • Establish two new partnerships with youth agencies in the community in the next 12 months.


Working with community partners

Whether you are linking in to an existing peer support program or developing your own program, strong partnerships will be critical to your success. Partners can support the peer support program in many ways, including promoting the program, recruiting young people as participants and peer leaders, working with schools to facilitate programs, providing a venue for training, financial support, and much more. 

How the peer support program is structured and delivered may influence the type of individuals, networks and organisations that your group partners with.

Partners may include:

  • Local primary and secondary schools
  • Youth workers in community health agencies 
  • Youth associations and groups in the area
  • Homework clubs and study groups
  • Major employers of young people
  • Sporting clubs
  • Community arts organisations (e.g. music, dance, drama)
  • Local council.

See also Working with community partners.


Resources required

All peer support programs need to be adequately resourced. Below is an indicative list of resources required to deliver peer support programs. LDATs may be able to provide some of these resources or work with partners who can provide additional support.

Resources:

  • Program participants, including the availability of suitable peer leaders
  • Basic administrative tools. Access to stationery and office supplies, printers, phones, printing, a workspace for administrative duties  
  • Skilled personnel to manage the peer support program
  • Knowledge/materials and/or funds to train, supervise and support peer leaders
  • Funds to cover costs/expenses of peer leaders (e.g. telephone, petrol, IT support, parking, public transport costs)
  • Venue for meetings – this may include in-kind use of meeting rooms from a partner organisation, local library, community halls (your local council will have a list of available places for community use), or schools. It is not appropriate for meetings to be held in people’s homes 
  • Funds for catering at events and meetings
  • Design and publish promotional material, implement a media campaign to publicise the program  
  • Funds to undertake police checks/working with children checks where necessary 
  • Insurance and liability coverage (where appropriate)

Please get in touch to find out more about the program
Please get in touch to find out more about the program