Services: Peer Support

Edinburgh Carers Council provides peer support services for carers (aged 18 and over) who are supporting someone with mental illness, an eating disorder, dementia, learning disability, autism, or acquired brain injury.

Peer support would often happen naturally between carers during our collective advocacy groups and social events. By creating a peer support service, it allows the support to continue outside of these events. Peer support volunteers are all carers or former carers themselves and have completed training from Health in Mind to build their peer work skills. 

What is peer support?

Peer support is the sharing of experiences between two or more people in a safe environment. Peer support volunteers will not lecture or judge you. It is a mutual relationship where they are there to listen to you and draw from their own similar experiences to help provide emotional and practical support. It aims to help both those giving and receiving the support. Each experience is treated as equally important, which gives it a different dynamic to more traditional settings of support such as counselling. Caring for someone with mental illness is often a lonely and isolating experience. With a peer support volunteer, you don’t have to keep repeating your story to a different person each time. A relationship can be formed with one person who can understand what you’re going through.

Peer support can help you to:

  • talk about your experiences and work through what you're feeling
  • learn coping strategies from someone who has been through similar difficult circumstances
  • understand your loved one’s diagnosis
  • learn about what other services are available to support you
  • increase self-esteem and confidence
  • feel reassured that you are not alone

What you can expect from the Peer Service

Edinburgh Carers Council offers one-to-one peer support and facilitates monthly carers' groups. The services are for unpaid carers (aged 18 and over) supporting someone with mental illness, an eating disorder, dementia, learning disability, autism, or acquired brain injury.

One-to-one peer support can be in-person, over the telephone, or online video call. Meetings can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on what works best for you.

You will be matched with a peer support volunteer who is a carer themselves. You can meet with them on a regular basis for a period of up to 6 months. The peer volunteer will talk with you, listen to your story, and share their own experiences. They can help give you tips to manage your own mental health and wellbeing and may be able to help provide information about other relevant services.

Keep yourself safe by being aware of how you are feeling. Sometimes if you are not feeling well, hearing other people’s experiences can be difficult. If you need to take a break from the peer support meeting or leave early, just let the volunteer know. You can share as much or as little as you feel comfortable. If you are unsure of how to begin to speak about your experiences, you can focus on how you are feeling instead.

How to make a referral

You can self-refer or ask someone to do so on your behalf. The first meeting or telephone call with the peer volunteer will be arranged by Edinburgh Carers Council.

We will ask you which days/times would suit you best and where you would be most comfortable to meet the volunteer. Meetings are usually held in a cafe or another public space; they can also be arranged in a room at Edinburgh Carers Council office space.

You will also be more than welcome to join our Carers Forums, or any of our support groups. It will be an opportunity for you to meet others with relatives or friends in similar circumstances.

To refer yourself or someone else, please email or call 0131 322 8480.

Carers Peer Support Group

The Carers Peer Support Group usually meets in-person on the last Friday of the month from 2:30-4:00pm at Redhall Walled Garden.

This group is for unpaid carers (family, friends) who are supporting someone with mental illness. Carers who are supporting someone with dementia, learning disability, autism, or acquired brain injury are also welcome to attend. It's a friendly, relaxed atmosphere where carers can share experiences, support each other, and receive information, advice and support.

For more information or to book your place, please email or call 0131 322 8480. Please keep in mind that spaces are limited.

Eating Disorder Peer Support Service

Edinburgh Carers Council now offers a peer support service specifically for carers looking after someone with an eating disorder. Similar to our general peer support service, only unpaid carers are eligible to use the service. We facilitate one community-based peer support group based in Edinburgh (covering areas of East, West and Midlothian as well) and one based at the Regional Eating Disorders Unit at St John's Hospital for carers of inpatients and recently discharged patients for up to one year.

Why Eating Disorders specifically? 

According to a report done by the Scottish Parliament, around one in 50 individuals in Scotland live with an eating disorder. This number has increased rapidly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with a reported 86% increase of referrals from 2019-2020 (Harper, 2022). In response, through Scottish funding, the NHS has set out a national plan to ensure people with eating disorders and their carers get the support they need. Through funding from NHS Lothian, this has allowed the Edinburgh Carers Council to develop a peer support network specifically for carers looking after those with eating disorders in addition to our pre-existing carers peer support service.

If you would like more information about the eating disorders peer support service, please email or call 0131 322 8480.

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

GDPR replaced the Data Protection Act (1998) and came into force in May 2018. In order to help you we need to maintain a record of your personal information, such as name, address and contact details. Our Peer Volunteers are expected to abide by all principles and policies of Edinburgh Carers Council at all times.

If you would like to read our full Data Protection Policy, please visit this link:


Edinburgh Carers Council recognises the importance of confidentiality to staff, volunteers and carers using the service and is committed to providing a safe and confidential environment to the users of this service and its staff. We maintain professional relationships with our clients. Personal information between you and the peer volunteer will remain confidential within Edinburgh Carers Council, unless in exceptional circumstances where there is a serious threat to the life and safety of you or others. A copy of the ECC Confidentiality Policy is available on request by emailing

Volunteer with us

Are you a carer or former carer who would like to become a peer support volunteer? If so we would love to have you on our team.

Our peer work volunteers are trained by Health in Mind through the Peer Community. The training consists of a 1-day per week, 5-week course. All of our peer volunteers are also disclosure checked and have received their PVGs from Disclosure Scotland.

If you are interested in becoming a peer volunteer, or have any questions about the peer support service in general, please feel free to get in touch with us by contacting Rachael at 0131 322 8480, or emailing

The Peer Community

Edinburgh Carers Council is a member of The Peer Community, a network of support for peer workers in Edinburgh. The Peer Community organises learning and development events, and keeps people up to date with current peer support services throughout Edinburgh. They also create awareness around peer support.

To find out more, visit:

You can subscribe to the Peer Community newsletter or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Side by Side: The Power of Peer Support

The Peer Community has made a short 15-minute film about peer work in Edinburgh. You can watch the film here

Shorter videos of some of the individual participants of the film are also available to watch.
Here is the video about one of our fantastic peer support volunteers, Alexis.

You can view all of the individual videos on Health in Mind’s Youtube Channel.