5 Jan 2021

Peer support and mentoring

Peer support and mentoring

Peer support and mentoring

Peer support has been consistently identified as one of the most significant sources of support for NQSWs.  Employers and supervisors will make arrangements for formal peer support for an NQSW with an identified peer.  They will also encourage a culture of wider informal peer and colleague support. Peer support and mentoring are a core element of an effective approach to the NQSW supported year in Scotland.

NQSWs can learn informally from colleagues and peers through offers such as shadowing, informal debrief or general assimilation of the ethos and culture of an individual or wider team.  They also have a valuable contribution to make to the learning of others through the exchange of knowledge. 

Where employers have an existing mentoring scheme, NQSWs may benefit from provision of mentoring during the NQSW supported year.  Mentoring provides opportunities to discuss work-related issues and generate possible solutions to challenges. There are several definitions of mentoring, many evolving to suit the context and purpose of the individual setting, however, all models will have the mentee firmly at the centre, with reflective practice the cornerstone.  If mentoring is used, there needs to be clearly defined roles for the mentor and the supervisor.   

What is peer mentoring for NQSWs?

Meetings with a mentor can provide NQSW with additional peer support during their supported PRTL first year in practice period and an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings in relation to their NQSW role, in a confidential, safe and supportive environment.

The relationship should support the NQSW to identify key aspects of their NQSW role and provide a protected and dedicated time/ space to review their practice through reflection and discussion. 

If a mentor is formally agreed to support a NQSW this is usually to provide a: collegial relationship based on a shared professional experience; dynamic process which can support the sharing and exchange of knowledge, skills and experience; less formal relationship which allows the NQSW to develop their professional identity; safe environment in which the NQSW can share thoughts, feelings and anxieties regarding their role.

Mentoring allows an environment for NQSWs to explore experiential learning related to your organisation; policy, procedure and culture; and explore application of theory and research to support social work practice. We have included some ideas about the kinds of topics that mentors might discuss with NQSWs.

NQSW avatars

Examples of topics for peer discussion

  • Initial impressions of the team and organisation
  • Day-to-day practiceAreas of anxiety
  • Challenges and areas of work which have gone well
  • Familiarisation with the local area (where required)
  • General discussion of thoughts/ feelings of being a NQSW
  • Reflecting on workload and managing time pressures
  • Working with organisational policy and procedure
  • Accessing local resources
  • Working in partnership and inter-professional contexts

Encouraging the NQSW to reflect on their work practice experiences is the key to a positive mentor relationship. Appropriately sharing your own professional experiences as a Social Worker – your own successes and areas you struggled with can be supportive to a NQSW. 

As your relationship progresses you might want to discuss: What were the challenges?; What succeeded and why?; What has been key learning?; What theories or research have they used to analyse their practice?

NQSWs can engage with their mentor through willingness to develop a learning relationship; agreeing to mentor meetings; willingness to be open and honest about their work practice successes and areas for development; willingness to share their thoughts, feelings, anxieties about their role as a NQSW; willingness to participate in discussions which examine use of self in the social work role.

Different people are involved in supporting NQSWs. These include team members, managers, supervisors and mentors.

Reflective questions for you as a mentor

Head icon with gears to indicate reflective thinking
  • Thinking about different roles of people involved in supporting NQSWs.
  • What are the main similarities and differences? 
  • What skills do you value in those that support you in the different roles?
  • What skills do you bring to the role that you have in supporting NQSW?
  • What skills or knowledge do you want to develop for this role?
  • We would encourage you to think about your responsibility for the wellbeing of the NQSW, reflect on relationship building, communication and consider aspects such as confidentiality.

We have developed material to support peer-group reflective practice as part of the suite of supervision resources for NQSWs, Managers and Supervisors.

You can also find out more about mentoring and how to support mentoring in your organisation:

We will be developing information and examples of mentoring with NQSWs as part of our national project. Please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences or examples.

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