New St GIles Hubs enable people who have overcome hardship to help others

Three new hubs helping people who have overcome disadvantage and social exclusion have opened their doors in London, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Wrexham over the past few weeks.

They enable people who have first-hand experiences of issues such as homelessness, long-term unemployment and histories of offending and addiction to have the opportunity to train as professional caseworkers, helping others whilst progressing their own lives.

The Peer Hubs have been developed thanks to a £3.6million grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, to St Giles announced in April 2019. It is enabling St Giles to develop a national network of Peer Hubs helping people with lived experience of disadvantage the opportunity to help people in their local communities who are undergoing similar experiences.

The grant also aims to bring about sustained change to the way charities, public bodies and other similar organisations who work with disadvantaged people offer their services. It is hoped it will ultimately become the norm for the sector to employ people who have this lived experience to make similar changes in other people’s lives.

They build on St Giles’s existing projects which use a peer-led approach. The award-winning Peer Advisor Programme trains individuals to an accredited Level 3 qualification who then offer services to help others as part of the vocational element to the qualification.

Since its start in 2002, over 2,500 individuals nationally have trained as Peer Advisors, positively impacting on the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people in need of support. They also benefit other organisations who offer the Peer Advisors work placements as part of the course.

Rob Owen OBE, Chief Executive of St Giles, said: “It is our firm belief that people with first-hand experience of successfully overcoming adversity hold the key to positive change in others. This approach has driven our work for the past 15 years and, thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund who have loyally supported this work, we can take it to the next stage. This will involve encouraging the sector to give opportunities to people with lived experience, enabling them to look at our programme and adapt it for their own work.”

Dawn Austwick, CEO at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “St Giles’ ambition to enable people with first-hand experience to become qualified advice workers echoes our own People in the Lead approach. So we are delighted, thanks to National Lottery funding, to be supporting the development of their London hub which has people with lived experience at its heart.”

The most recent to open its doors is the London Peer Hub. It is being launched at a special celebration event at the National Gallery on Tuesday 26th November. Peer Advisors from two of St Giles’s existing projects will tell their stories of overcoming adversity to qualify as Peer Advisors through an exhibition of photography and written testimonies. A booklet of their journey can be downloaded here. Further Peer Hubs are due to launch in Cardiff, Norfolk, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the near future.

• The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.