Council uses VR technology to understand experiences of vulnerable children

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Children’s Services is using virtual reality (VR) technology to improve staff and foster carers’ understanding of domestic abuse, child exploitation and trauma.

Working in partnership with health, education and social care solutions provider Antser, the Council developed a framework that would support the Borough in becoming a trauma-informed town.

In 2018, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council initially trialled Antser VR across 10 service areas, including adoption, fostering, and special guardianship order (SGO), marigold assessment plus, mental health workers, educational psychologists and Southend Virtual School. 

Results from this partnership revealed how VR can be an effective tool to help combat issues that arise from childhood trauma. Feedback from foster carers, adopters and social workers show they strongly agree that VR can effectively provide them with the confidence and knowledge to shape their approach when communicating with vulnerable individuals.

Jo Hines at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: ‘Due to the pandemic, we were unable to use the VR headsets; however, the response to the 2D films has been just as impactful and has facilitated informed conversations around trauma.’

person wearing VR smartphone headset inside room

In 2021, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council successfully delivered training to two SGO training groups, three adoption preparation groups, five skills to foster virtual groups, as well as a direct session with newly qualified social workers (NQSW) and a Southend-on-Sea Virtual School team.

Continuing, Jo said: ‘Already, we are in the exciting process of developing the use of Antser VR within our assessment and intervention teams, where one of our practitioners is currently integrating the VR to assess parenting capacity.

‘Looking forward, Southend is hoping to integrate Antser VR further within its services and across the borough, more specifically across the education sector.’

Richard Dooner, chief executive officer (CEO) at Antser, commented: ‘This partnership with Southend has allowed our immersive VR technology to improve the borough’s awareness and understanding around childhood trauma and domestic abuse, using a multi-service approach, which in this case has supported the safeguarding of some of the most vulnerable children in the country. 

‘It has been particularly special to oversee this partnership, which has ultimately allowed for those involved in caring and decision making for these children to have an emotional and physiological understanding of attachment and the impact of trauma. 

‘We are pleased to see our innovative partnership has already delivered better outcomes for the council and ultimately children and young people in Southend-on-Sea.’


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