The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded £3.6m to the St Giles Trust to help people with lived experience of issues such as homelessness, long-term unemployment, offending and addiction to get their lives back on track by supporting others.
The award will enable the charity, which helps people who are experiencing severe disadvantage, to establish a network of seven Peer Hubs over the next four years to reach up to 6,000 people.
The hubs will offer those with first-hand experience of disadvantage the opportunity to become professionally qualified advice workers.
The Peer Hub network is based on an existing approach used by the St Giles Trust in which people who have experienced difficulties in life are able to gain skills, experience and qualifications through the Peer Advisor Programme.
The programme was first established in HMP Wandsworth in 2002 and 2,500 people have been trained through the programme so far.
An evaluation of the programme’s work with prison leavers in Leeds, conducted by the accountancy firm PwC in 2016, found that it generated £8.54 in social value for every £1 spent on the scheme.
The charity has three existing Peer Hubs in Leeds, London and Cardiff, but the money will be used to develop further hubs in North Wales, Norfolk, the Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Rob Owen, chief executive of the St Giles Trust, said in a statement: "People who face real barriers in overcoming challenges and stereotypes will be given the tools and training to create positive change.
"This is at a time when public services are being cut to the bone and many of the most vulnerable are falling through the gaps. The Peer Hubs offer a smart, grass-roots way of supporting people and communities and changing the way that services are delivered."
Joe Ferns, UK funding director at the National Lottery Community Fund, said: "Through its Peer Hub networks, the St Giles Trust is not only helping people become qualified advice workers, but is also supporting communities across the UK to thrive."