Training Opportunities for Peer Supporters with Intellectual Disabilities in Europe

Many adults with intellectual disabilities in Europe cannot participate as active citizens in their societies. Since most have only limited access to formal or informal adult education and training, one of the main challenges lies in providing them with the appropriate training needed to take their own decisions, to take control over their lives and to perform their role as active citizens.

The objective of the TOPSIDE project is to develop peer support and peer training, i.e. to develop the capacity of adults with intellectual disabilities to provide support and training to their peers, as a new component in informal adult education for people with intellectual disabilities.

On the basis of an inventory of the necessary skills, the TOPSIDE project will develop and test a Training Curriculum for adult peer supporters and trainers. The TOPSIDE Curriculum will be complemented by Methodological Guidelines for adult education trainers and by Material for the Peer Supporters themselves. To test, improve and validate this material, adult education courses for future Peer Supporters and Trainers will be organized in the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, and Spain. A European version of the material will also be created for the transfer to other EU countries.

The TOPSIDE Consortium will seek recognition of the Curriculum by the leading organisations of and for people with intellectual disabilities in Europe. The Project Partners will present the results of the project at local, national and European level to promote the qualification as Peer Supporter and Trainer as new educational and eventually even employment opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities.

The new “function” of Peer Supporter will not only offer new training opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to reinforce their basic skills but it may also offer new employment or volunteering opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to reinforce their active citizenship through the recognition of their skills. The TOPSIDE Peer Supporters will be able to maintain their newly acquired skills in different places: in self-advocacy organisations, in counselling services, or in organisations of guardians/supporters to complement the provided support by a peer perspective. Ultimately this project will contribute to reinforcing the capacity of people with intellectual disabilities to live and work as active citizens in society.

The project is funded by the European Commission Education, Audiovisual and Culture Agency– Life Long Learning Grundtvig Programme and lasts from 01/11/2011 to 31/10/2013 – that is for 24 months.

More information about the project can be found on the project website.