The importance of Peer Support

Barry PicContinuing Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme of ‘relationships’, we spoke to Charlie Wright, a Peer Supporter in Lambeth who often watches the positive impact that forming good relationships can have on people. Here, he shares his experiences working with Barry.

Originally from New Zealand, Barry moved to England in the 1970s with his father, who sadly died a few years ago. He had worked all of his life loading and unloading haulage containers to farms in New Zealand, also in Blackpool Pleasure Beach and in the London Underground. Barry was recently diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) however has struggled with anxiety, in his words, ‘for as long as I can remember’. GAD is a debilitating issue for Barry and this, along with a lack of confidence, means that he doesn’t go out very much.

Barry also has a stammer and has found that people haven’t always had the time or patience to talk with him, which has left him feeling very isolated. I have always been very patient with Barry, giving him time to say everything he wants as he certainly talks a lot!

When we first started talking about meeting in Barry’s local community, he talked a lot about his anxieties around leaving his home and going out, so we made sure we met somewhere very near his home where he felt comfortable. For this first meeting, we went for a short walk to a local park where he felt he could relax. It was during our second meeting at a local coffee shop (a 5 minute walk from his house) that Barry admitted he had never ventured out that far from home before.

Through our meetings, I discovered lots of different interests that I shared with Barry – computers, the internet, music (specifically heavy metal and classical) and also travelling, something he wants to explore a lot more when he is able.

During our third meeting, I started to notice little changes – little differences which have reassured me that he is starting to grow in confidence, such as showing an interest in his personal presentation and wanting to buy new clothes. Barry has also shown an interest in visiting the Mosaic Club House and the Wellbeing Centre in Clapham which would mean building more relationships with people and has even suggested he might considering volunteering for peer support work in future.

Through the relationship that I have built with Barry, I have observed Barry’s willingness to trust me to support him emotionally and access things in his community. A marked difference from going to a park near his home, to venturing out to his local café and now engaging in activities at the Clapham Wellbeing Centre. Barry continues to challenge himself and takes steps to overcome his anxiety, whilst trusting me to support him to achieve this.

Barry Pic 1When I spoke to Barry after our visit to Clapham Wellbeing Centre today, he said:

“Knowing that Charlie has lived experience of overcoming his own crisis made it easier for me to engage with him. On our way to Clapham Wellbeing Centre today, we sat on top of a double decker bus, something I haven’t done in 3 years. What really helped with my anxieties whilst on the bus was being able to talk to Charlie”.

Barry shows a constant eagerness to enhance his lifestyle and beat his anxieties and, with the new relationships he is now developing, I fully believe he can.


Keeping London Connected

Today is a wonderful milestone in Certitude’s history. After 25 years of supporting people across London, we’re launching our first ever fundraising campaign to fight social isolation.

Please donate to our JustGiving page, or click on Fundraise to take on your own challenge to support our campaign.



Recent research has shown that being lonely and socially isolated can increase a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke, discussed here.

London can be a lonely city for all of us, and people with learning disabilities and mental health support needs are statistically even more likely to find themselves socially isolated.

Traditional support often fails to address the wider social factors that contribute to someone’s isolation. Our Community Connectors in London support people to build their own social networks and lasting friendships.

With their support, people build in confidence, become more independent and start to break down any barriers they may face when trying to make a supported and valued contribution within their community.

We’re doing everything we can to Keep London Connected; find out more!


We believe that going out, being active and interacting with your community has a tremendous impact upon your mental and physical wellbeing. Throughout our campaign, we’ll be sharing stories from some people we know who have done just this at Certitude.

You will also hear from our valiant volunteers, fearless fundraisers and spirited staff, who are taking on a variety of daring challenges to raise money for Certitude.

Visit our campaign page to keep up-to-date on what’s going on, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and why not share your own experiences using the #ConnectLDN hashtag?

You can raise your own funds for our social isolation campaign by setting up a JustGiving page and clicking on the “Fundraise for Campaign” button. Or, if you prefer, you can donate £5 by texting CERT01 £5 to 70070.

Do you have any questions? Get in touch with to chat with our Community Fundraiser.

Thank you!

Come and “Cut a Rug” at the Portico Gallery – everyone invited!

It’s all going on at The Portico Gallery in West Norwood on Friday May 13th, when Certitude hosts its next acoustic Cut a Rug night.

This lively event is designed to be inclusive to all parts of the local community, and the line up of talented acts – including south London four-piece After Alice, popular skiffle band JD and the Longfellows and a lyrical genius by the name of Jess Hiley – is guaranteed to get the place jumping.

Certitude is an organisation which provides support to people with learning disabilities and mental health support needs in south London. However, event organiser Sam Mason is keen to emphasise that this is not a ‘disability night’.

“Cut a Rug is about providing a platform for a variety of performers and audience members to come together and enjoy live music. Sometimes people we support play, but that happens organically. Our emphasis is on creating an event which is a better reflection of our communities as a whole. We’re aiming to host an evening that has moved beyond the idea of disability nights, because a lot of people we support neither want or need that; they just want to go to a gig and feel like they belong there.”

Cut a Rug nights have been hosted in other parts of London and have proved extremely popular with local communities and performance artists. More events are scheduled in the coming months and can be found at

Sue Mclaughlin from the Portico Gallery commented:

“We are passionate at the Gallery about community integration and making art and performance accessible to all. A wonderful, regular musical event with a vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere – Cut A Rug nights – do this. It’s providing quality music with an edge for everyone to enjoy, whoever you are and wherever you come from.”

Tickets for the Portico Gallery on May 13 are £5 in advance from or £6 on the door. Doors open at 8pm and the event goes on until late. The Portico Gallery is at 23A Knights Hill, London, SE27 0HS,

You can also follow @cutarugmusic on Twitter for the latest updates and photos!

World Down’s Syndrome Day: Becky and Kim

This year, World Down’s Syndrome Day is focusing on the friendships and communities that develop around people with Down’s Syndrome. Kim, House Manager talks about her experience of “My Friends, My Community” with her daughter Becky, who is 26 next month.

Becky is very sociable and lives in a house with 4 of her closest friends in Cornwall who are, in some respects, like family! When I visit Becky, I’m treated like one of the family by everyone, including staff – we all sit and have a chat and find out how things are going for us all since we last met.

Although life in Becky’s house can be a bit of a rollercoaster, everyone gets along very well.

As well as having fun together watching TV, talking (a lot), sharing meals and so on, they also argue about mundane stuff like missing ham, leggings and whose turn it is to clean!

My only concern is that she rarely meets friends outside of organised events because getting there is not easy and staff not always available – her brother does help though if it’s a party or something. I worry that in the future there will be more pulls on the support she gets and that the social aspect of her life will be deemed to be ‘less important’ – this has already happened to a certain degree with her not being able to attend dance classes in a neighbouring town because of transport/staff hours.

Her favourite trip is to the pub for Sunday Roast, either with one person or the entire household. You can’t walk through her town without someone saying ‘hello’ or waving to her. If she got in trouble or was unwell, someone would undoubtedly know her enough to help.

This community is key and so important, as far as I’m concerned, in helping keep Becky safe whilst ensuring she has as much independence as possible.

Recently, Becky was being harassed by a man in a pub (he thought he was being funny) and he was thrown out and barred by the bar man.
Becky’s home and her town are her community, and she loves it. It’s somewhere she feels safe.

As well as Kim and Becky below, you can also read about Marianne and her son Alex here, plus Anne and her son Luke here.

#WDSD16 #MyFriendsMyCommunity


World Down’s Syndrome Day: Luke and Anne

This year, World Down’s Syndrome Day is focusing on the friendships and communities that develop around people with Down’s Syndrome. Anne, Service Manager talks about her experience of “My Friends, My Community” with her son Luke, who is 19 years old.

Luke was in mainstream education until he was 16 and, whilst he was ably catered-for academically, the social void between him and his peers grew exponentially over the years. Particularly at secondary school, as everyone hit puberty and hormones started racing around, it seemed as though most of the pupils had other preoccupations. Add GCSEs into that mix and inclusion went right out the window. Luke found it easier to withdraw, to the extent that he was eating his lunch outside in the middle of winter.

Despite approaches to involve him, he preferred his own company.

Luke is now in a specialist sixth form provision and seems to be generally far happier and talks about his friends. He has developed patterns of social behaviour that he uses when meeting people in different situations. These will vary depending on who he is meeting – he will play the clown or sometimes become extremely religious and pontificate about life and death. He will greet everyone enthusiastically and even have a little chat but, as soon as he is able, he will retire to the comfort of his own company, seeking space where he can be alone. When visiting friends or relations, he will prepare a bag with a couple of books to take with him.

He has a girlfriend and yet, like many blokes, does little to make it work. She has moved far away and all the calls are incoming!

Luke lights up a room. On the occasions when he has been away, we miss him. He leaves a gap behind. As he struggles to make sense of the world around him and comes to terms with his disability and the complications that brings, he never stops trying and that, I think, is what brings such joy to the people around him.

For the moment, friendships are often a result of being in a specific social setting with others. The friendships don’t necessarily exist outside of that setting. Social and communal activities for people like our son will continue to need facilitation. They will continue needing to learn and develop as individuals, to develop understanding and empathy, compassion and depth. True friendship has all these things and I believe that our son, one day, will discover this for himself – with a little help along the way.

As well as Anne and Luke below, you can also read about Marianne and her son Alex here, plus Kim and her daughter Becky here.

#WDSD16 #MyFriendsMyCommunity


Certitude Satisfaction Survey 2015

The results are in…

We are delighted to share the results of Certitude’s 2015 Satisfaction Survey for people we support, their families and carers.

In total, 1,400 surveys were sent out with 505 responses received – this is a return rate of 36%, a great improvement on the 14%response rate to our last survey in 2012.

Many thanks to all those who responded and to everyone that supported people to take part! To find out what people told us read more here:  Certitude Satisfaction Survey 2015

Glitz, Glamour and Great People

The 2015 Michael Rosen Awards celebrates outstanding contributions across Certitude.

Over 200 people attended this year’s glittering Michael Rosen Awards, which took place in the stunning banqueting suite at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London on Wednesday 18th November.

The awards celebrate people within Certitude who “go the extra mile” to make a difference to people supported by the organisation. Nominees were joined by colleagues, people using Certitude’s services, families, carers, volunteers and fundraisers.

The Michael Rosen Awards were founded in 2010 by Sheila Rosen in memory of her late husband, who was Chair of Support for Living during 2007-2008.

After dinner, the real business of the evening began, as Aisling Duffy, CEO of Certitude, introduced the awards and described the important contribution staff have made to the growth and success of Certitude, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. She expressed her delight at the record-breaking 69 people nominated for the 2015 awards and her gratitude to Nim Design for donating a booklet which told every single one of their inspirational stories.

Emotions ran high as delighted, excited and, in some cases, very surprised individuals and teams stepped onto the sparkling stage to receive their runner-up and winners awards. For the five categories of Best Colleague, Best Volunteer, Making a Difference, The Change Maker and, the ultimate accolade, The Michael Rosen Award, all the winners enjoyed rapturous applause and loud cheers from the appreciative guests.

Once all the awards had been presented and the anticipation and nerves were gone, guests were able to spend the rest of the evening relaxing with friends and colleagues, drinking wine, chatting at the bar and dancing the night away at the disco.

The Awards

The Michael Rosen Award

Winner: 19 Haymill Respite Support Team Nominated by: Mike Bloodworth and Annabelle Lambourne

This team were described by Aisling as “exemplifying the vision and values of Certitude.” She congratulated them on how they worked in partnership with individuals and their families. The team had worked particularly hard for one individual over the last 12 months and their skill, commitment and attention to detail garnered high praise from Certitude managers as well external partners – including a case-coordinator and clinical psychologist who sent their best wishes via film.


Making a Difference

Winner: Mimosa Richards, Travel Buddy Co-ordinator at the Lewisham Cluster

Mimosa says she likes to be out and about, and that her approach is certainly appreciated by the people she supports to travel around London. Her nominee said that “regardless of the weather; rain, sun, snow or high wind, Mimosa has not missed an appointment with any of the people she supports.”

Runner up: Terry Burke, My Choice Worker at the Lambeth Cluster.



The Change Maker

Winner: Lorraine Jarman, Family Support Manager

Lorraine was recognised for working in the best interests of families in whatever way they need her, for “achieving many life enhancing changes for numerous families” and for providing a “much needed listening ear and emotional support”.

Runner up: Sandra Tomlinson, Peer Supporter Solidarity in a Crisis.



Best Colleague

Winner: David Moorcroft, Support Worker at Rosemont Rd

Described as “an empathetic, considerate, ethical and hard-working man,” David has worked for Certitude for over 20 years and seemed especially delighted to be recognised for his long-serving commitment.

Joint runner up: Mandeep Jhalli, Receptionist and Admin Assistant

Joint runner up: Kami Flora, Customer Finance Officer.



Best Volunteer

Winner: Peter Walker, volunteer and fundraiser

Peter is both a volunteer for Certitude and a fundraiser. He was congratulated for being a “dedicated, reliable and punctual volunteer” and for ‘taking on three sponsored bike rides which raised hundreds of pounds for Certitude.”

Runners up: Chris Albury and Anne Johnston, volunteers supporting Wandsworth families


Richmond announcement

Certitude is delighted to announce that it has been chosen by the London Borough of Richmond to provide a range of supported living and residential support for people with learning disabilities living in Richmond.

The contract will commence early in 2016 and includes some long standing services as well a number of new services designed specifically to support young people with complex needs as they move into adulthood.

Cllr David Marlow, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said:

“Helping the most vulnerable adults in our community must be at the heart of everything we do. Supported living helps people with a learning disability to live independently. The services they receive help them with every day skills, personal care, travel, training or indeed employment.

“It enables them to embrace independence by supporting them to be able to make their own choices and decisions about their lives.”

Certitude Chief Executive, Aisling Duffy says:

“We are so pleased to be able to extend our support to Richmond. We very much look forward to getting to know the people we will be supporting, their families, staff and wider support networks and working together with Richmond Borough Council to ensure people have support which is right for them. At Certitude we believe that everyone has the right to a good life. Understandably, people want different things – it is our job to listen, find out what people want and then work together to make it happen.”

Dignity through peer support

This year, World Mental Health Day will raise awareness around what can be done to ensure that people with mental health support needs are able to live with dignity.

Estimations currently show that that only a quarter of people with mental health support needs in the UK seek and receive ongoing treatment, leaving the majority of people to grapple with uncertainty and to rely on the informal support of family and friends.

We want to challenge the barriers people face when asking for help by promoting the value of peer support.

Peer support enables people with mental health lived experience the opportunity to provide support and empathy to others.

We work in partnership with local organisations, funders, commissioners, CCGs and the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative to deliver a variety of peer support services.

Solidarity in a Crisis provides a 7-day, out-of-hours support line to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Our team has expanded since 2012 when it opened, and currently consists of 14 paid Peer Supporters covering Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

They have all completed a wide range of training courses, including Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills, and receive ongoing training and development support. There are many wonderful individual stories of how peer supporters have seen their own recovery and well-being improve as well as how they have helped others. We have a truly astounding team with passion and commitment to promote recovery.

Rosetie, one of our Peer Supporters, speaks about her experiences in the video below.

Earlier this year, we were also delighted to launch our new Peer Support Network hub in Railton Road, Brixton to help grow peer support in the borough. By enabling people to build reciprocal relationships, network through social media and attend various community groups, we hope to inspire better connections and effective community support. It offers a variety of activities, including:

  • Learning and development programmes
  • Career pathway opportunities
  • Social events and a space to meet others
  • Information and support in finding local hobbies and activities
  • Opportunities to connect through social media and online tools, such as Connect & Do.

Beyond Prison adopts a holistic and person-centred approach to encapsulate what peer mentoring means, improving the mental wellbeing of prisoners, and reducing the likelihood of re-offending upon release into the local community, by focusing on strengths and assets. For some of the most marginalised people in our community, these experiences positively enhance the lives of their peers as well as having a significant impact upon their own journey.

The Work Pathways team supports a range of people with mental health support needs and learning disabilities to access education, training and employment opportunities. Their ETE (employment, training and education) trainee programme offers career opportunities to people with lived experience of mental health support that includes supporting others into paid employment.

We could go on and on about the various other services that have also been seen to effectively utilise peer support, but the fact of the matter is that it works. By working with the people we support, we can better understand how to help them, as well as many others in a far more dignified, understanding manner.

Topman fundraising

This summer, Topman helped us with a spot of gardening. We think that their interview with Sam, our Community Fundraiser highlights the multiple rewards and benefits of working with us.

If you would also like to get involved through fundraising or volunteering, or would consider becoming a corporate partner, please contact We look forward to hearing from you!

Tell us about why Topman gets involved with organisations like Certitude.

At Topman, we’re really keen to use our size and influence to help out the communities that we operate in. Our people tell us that they love opportunities to give back and have fun with their workmates and this is one of the ways we can provide that type of experience.

We know there are lots of places you can volunteer on projects like this, so we’re always touched when a team selects us. Why did you pick us?

The big pull factor for an organisation like Certitude is the good they do for people with learning disabilities and mental health support needs. We had a list of really worthwhile projects to choose from, but the human factor was the cause that clinched it. It was important for all involved that it felt like a worthy and meaningful experience.

There are a lot of misconceptions about mental health services and the people that use them, so what were you guys expecting? Were you nervous?

I think we were more nervous about the manual labour we had ahead of us! Overall, it was important for us to be helping people and it was lovely to get a sense of how important the project was for them.

We love the time-lapse video, found here. Were there any particular highlights for you?

The team had so much fun working together to complete the project that it’s difficult to pick a highlight; the best part was probably the sense of achievement we felt when looking at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, and knowing that ‘I helped to do that’. Also watching Del, (the MD’s PA) getting a little carried away with pruning had a few people LOLing!

For the people we support, having a beautiful garden is a huge deal. Did you get a sense of the impact of your work while you were there?

It was incredibly apparent by the gratitude received from the charity and the residents that our work meant a great deal. We hope that the changes we’ve made last a long time and can be enjoyed for years to come.

Did you get to meet any of the people we support? If you did, how did it go?

Yes, we met quite a few people! Some were really chatty, others opted to watch from afar. Some of the guys were also kind enough to make us a few sarnies to help celebrate our achievement!

The garden was transformed; it must have been really satisfying to see what you’d achieved. How did you feel afterwards?

It was fantastic, we were all buzzing and felt much closer as a team after completing it together. All in all, it was bags of fun!

Anything you want to add?

This experience has really inspired us to do things like this more often. We’re looking into a programme focused on how we can give more back to our communities through our employees and help organisations like Certitude in the future.