UK Social enterprise pilots use of immersive tech in social care.

Over the past five years, the number of children who are looked after by Local Authorities (LAs) and children who require child protection plans to be kept safe from ‘significant harm’ has increased dramatically in England. And while demand for foster carers and adopters has also increased, the number of approved adoptive families has been on a steady decline.

To help tackle these difficult and complex issues, London-based social enterprise The Cornerstone Partnership has partnered with Immerse UK to test the use of VR as an intervention tool across adoption and fostering services.

Launched in October 2017, their Virtual Reality Programme (CVR) was implemented to improve the life chances of children in care and those who have experienced attachment-related trauma. CVR uses virtual reality technology to change how professionals (including social workers, child and adolescent mental health workers, teachers, and judges), adopters and fosters carers understand and interact with vulnerable children.

Cornerstone VR is using immersive technology within social care to accelerate understanding of trauma and neglect and drive behaviour change in those who have contact with Children in and on The Edge of Care. It works with local authorities across the UK using a VR Library which includes 12 episodes of high impact immersive content designed for use within adoption, fostering and wider children’s services.

The outcomes for children who are in or have been in care are significantly worse than their peers across all key areas; education, health, career, rough-sleeping and mental health. The reasons for that are complex but it is fundamentally about how we as adults and professionals get children on to the right path, quickly and with support, empathy and true understanding. By helping carers better understand these children, we can help prevent huge costs – both financial and emotional – associated with issues such as care breakdowns, education, crime, and mental health issues.

Preliminary results from the 12-month pilot paint a very promising picture of Cornerstone VR’s potential to improve decision making and understanding of trauma, children’s emotions and potential triggers that can help practitioners and policy makers implement more effective solutions.

Research indicates that VR content receives 27% higher emotional reaction that 2D content and engagement is 34% longer. Alma Economics worked with the Cornerstone Partnership to evaluate the impacts and value for money implications of using virtual reality technology in these settings, and some impressive statistics emerged.