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Peer Support - Evidence and Learning

On the 9th September 2021, the Life Changes Trust hosted an online webinar learning event, looking at the evaluation of our Peer Support projects funding.  

Back in 2015, the Life Changes Trust’s dementia programme funded six peer support projects to run between 2015 and 2021.  They were:

  • VOCAL’s peer mentoring service;
  • Outside the Box’s Food and Garden Buddies project;
  • North West Carers Centre ‘Side by Side’ project;
  • Health in Mind;
  • ENABLE’s Cuppa Club;
  • and Ceartas, with their De Cafes.

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You can read the Peer Support Evaluation Report here

You can also read the individual project evaluation reports at the bottom of this page.

Each project was different in their approach, but they all had the common aim of contributing to better lives for people living with dementia and unpaid carers by facilitating emotional and practical support from others who had shared the same journey – peers – and strengthening social connections within and across communities.

With all of our projects, once we have issued funding, we also commission an evaluation, and our Peer Support initiative was no exception. The University of Stirling was commissioned to carry out this work.

The evaluation looked at the extent to which peer support contributed to better lives for people living with dementia and unpaid carers, what were the key elements for successful peer support projects and the outcomes for those who attended the projects.

During the learning webinar, we heard from Dr Grant Gibson from the University of Stirling, who explored the key learning from the evaluation, and we also heard from Lesley Aitkenhead, who was a volunteer community researcher on the project. Lesley, who had evaluation experience in the past, also runs a small community peer support group herself. She is also a family carer for her mum who has dementia. She spoke about what her experience was like working on the project, and the impact it had on her.  

This evaluation presentation was supported by a short animation by Alastair Cox, which gave a brief overview of the core outcomes from the six funded projects, and looked at some key elements around successful and effective peer support.

We also heard from Michelle Candlish, who is a dementia link worker with Ceartas, one of the peer support projects funded by the Trust. Ceartas run support groups called ‘De Cafes’ across East Dunbartonshire and these projects provide a safe space for people living with dementia and unpaid carers to meet, take part in activities, and speak with others who are sharing their journey through dementia.  Michelle spoke with Chris Cat, whose husband Richard has frontotemporal dementia.  They both attend De Cafes, which provided not only that peer support and activity connection, but also signposts to other organisations who provide support in the area. 

We also held a Q&A panel session.  Our panel included Grant Gibson, who was involved in the evaluation of the projects, Andrena Coburn, from the Life Changes Trust, Anne Connor from Outside the Box and Carole Kelly from VOCAL. 

After the conference, the Life Changes Trust put together a summary/evaluation report which includes a brief summary of the event, discussion points during the Q&A session and the key messages that people felt were important to influence change going forward.

You can download the Peer Support Summary & Evaluation Report here

You can watch our full webinar, or you can just watch some of the presentations, whatever works for you.

You can watch the full webinar below (the Q&A panel session is at timecode 47.18)


You can watch the evaluation overview animation, below


You can watch Dr Grant Gibson's presentation on the evaluation findings, below


You can watch Lesley Aitkenhead talk about her experience as a Community Researcher, below

You can watch Michelle Candlish and Chris Cat talk about the benefits of peer support, below

Individual project evaluation reports

You can read the individual evaluation of the VOCAL peer mentoring project here

You can read the individual evaluation of the Ceartas 'De Cafe' project here

You can read the individual evaluation of Outside the Box's 'Food and Garden Buddies' project here

You can read the individual evaluation of North West Carers Centre's 'Side by Side' project here

The Trust would like to thank Grant Gibson, Lesley Aitkenhead, Alastair Cox, Anne Connor, Carole Kelly, Andrena Coburn and all of the projects who gave of their time and wisdom to help with the evaluation.