Professional Development Award (PDA) Mental Health Peer Support


Peer Support Workers are individuals with personal experience of mental health who are trained to support others.

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and a mutual agreement of what is helpful.

Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria.

It is about understanding another’s situation with empathy through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain where people are able to ‘be with each other’ without the constraints of traditional (expert/patient) relationships.

What is a Peer Support Worker?

People with experience of mental health problems, who are trained to work in support of other people’s recovery.

Peer Support Workers can be described as modelling recovery, offering a lived example of the possibility of progression and growth.

What is a Professional Development Award (PDA)?

A Professional Development Award (PDA) is a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SCQF) which contributes to continuous professional development for employed participants.


Developed in the 2010’s, the PDA in Mental Health Peer Support is a (relatively) new award which has been designed to meet the needs of peer support workers in Scotland and provide them with a robust accredited award which will not only serve to set standards but also to contribute to the creation of a recognised employment and career pathway.

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help, founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement.

It is about understanding another person’s situation with empathy through shared experiences of emotional and psychological pain.

Thanks to peer support, people who have experienced mental health issues offer insight and understanding and can draw on their own experiences to help.

This first-hand experience combined with professional support is a valuable tool for mental health workers.

The results from these shared experiences show that peer support is a meaningful, effective and innovative approach to assist people in their recovery from mental health issues.

What is the Purpose of the Course?

The PDA in Mental Health Peer Support is designed to facilitate candidates in the role of peer support worker.

The PDA equips candidates with the knowledge, skills, and values which are necessary to carry out this role.

It was developed by the Scottish Recovery Network and Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Who is the Course For?

This PDA has been developed to facilitate learning for people with the lived experience who wish to act in the role of Peer Support Workers either in a voluntary or paid capacity.

Entry Requirements

The only conditions of entry are that individuals should:

  • Have personal experience of mental health problems.
  • Be able to provide evidence of good written and oral communication skills (at least SCQF level 5).
    • This can be either in an interview situation or through production of relevant qualifications.
  • Be in paid or voluntary work, working with individuals with mental health problems prior to starting the course.

Academic Level of the Course

The PDA will be awarded on successful completion of a total of 2 credits. The PDA carries 16 SCQF credit points at SCQF level 7.

Course Format Content

The course consists of two units, each lasting 13 weeks (40 hours each, notionally):

  • Mental Health Peer Support Recovery Context:
    • SQA credit value: 1, SCQF credit: 8.
    • Mandatory unit.
  • Mental Health Peer Support Developing Practice:
    • SQA credit value: 1, SCQF credit: 8.
    • Mandatory unit.

Course Content

During the PDA individual will:

  • Explore the development of the recovery approach in mental health.
  • Define and understand peer support and its role in recovery.
  • Describe and explain the key concepts of formalised peer support.
  • Apply a range of theories and concepts in the peer support role.
  • Develop relationships based on peer support principles.
  • Understand perspectives of the work role.

Unit 01

  • Unit 01 is aimed primarily at individuals who have personal experience of mental health problems.
  • It may also be of value to those with an interest in mental health recovery.
  • It is designed to provide candidates with the underpinning knowledge, skills and values to understand recovery and peer support.
  • The individual will understand the development of the recovery approach and learn and understand the concepts of empowerment and mutuality.
  • The individual will develop their understanding of peer support and its role in recovery.

Unit 02

  • Unit 02 is designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills and values required to provide peer support.
  • It will also enable individuals to understand and reflect on the peer relationship and how this can be used to support recovery.
  • Individuals will gain knowledge from a range of theories and concepts used to inform the peer support role, they will gain a greater understanding of the principles and perspectives of the role.
  • Individuals will consider the work role and function of a peer support worker and relate this to their own personal experience.


  • Unit 01:
    • Assessment of this unit should be carried out in an integrated fashion with other units in the Group Award wherever possible.
    • The recommended assessment for Outcome 1 is an assignment of approximately 1,000 words and the assessment for Outcomes 2 and 3 is a portfolio of evidence prepared by the candidate which covers the Evidence Requirements of both Outcomes.
    • This portfolio should be no more than 1,500 words. Portfolio evidence should relate to real work activity and be authenticated by an appropriate person.
  • Unit 02:
    • Holistic assessment presented as a portfolio of evidence using real work experience in which the individual undertakes an analysis of their use of theories and concepts to support people to identify their desired outcomes, set their own goals and recognise their own expertise.
    • Individuals are asked to relate learning to real work practice and are expected to produce evidence relating to the role and function of peer support.
    • The total word count of this portfolio should not exceed 2,500 words.


An SCQCF Level 7 Professional Development Award in Mental Health Peer Support is awarded on successful completion.

Further Information

You can find further information on the PDA at the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

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