Antser, one of the UK’s leading providers of health and social care technology, has been shortlisted in the prestigious MJ Awards for its work with three London boroughs using virtual reality (VR) to reduce the risk of child exploitation and extra-familial harm (EFH).
The partnership with Redbridge Council, Waltham Forest Council and Enfield Council has been shortlisted in the ‘Innovation in Children’s and Adults’ Services’ category in this year’s awards.
Figures published by the Department of Education (DfE) revealed that in London between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, 3,500 children were identified as being at risk as a result of involvement with gangs, while an additional 2,650 children were identified as being at risk as a result of child sexual exploitation.
Specifically, in the London Borough of Enfield, 181 young people were identified as either experiencing or being at significant risk of child exploitation, including 14 repeat referrals. Across the borough, 100 young people were at risk of child sexual exploitation, 72 at risk of child criminal exploitation and nine were at risk of both.
In response to these statistics, the three London boroughs partnered together and worked with Antser.
Young people identified as being vulnerable to exploitation and at significant risk of EFH, experienced VR which allowed for them to either share their own experiences, have a conversation about the risks and protective factors or to increase their understanding of the grooming process. The parents, carers and any health and social care professionals working with the young people, also used the innovative VR programme with their local council in order to increase empathy, raise awareness and improve outcomes.
Antser VR immerses viewers into real-life scenarios, enabling them to experience the real-life impact of trauma, abuse and neglect.
Between January and March 2022, Antser VR had been used 52 times in interventions conducted across the Redbridge, Enfield and Waltham Forest boroughs directly with vulnerable adolescents or their parents
Following the interventions, nearly 89 per cent of parents had a better understanding of the experiences their child may be going through. Crucially, 17 out of the 18 felt more able to discuss how to protect/support their child with practitioners since experiencing the VR.
In Redbridge alone, from February to August 2022, over 100 young people benefitted from VR during group work sessions with the Junior Family Intervention Team (JFIT).
Kerstin Walby, Team Manager at Redbridge Council said: “With the use of VR, our early intervention staff have gained an incredibly valuable tool for supporting young people and families affected by EFH.
“All of the young people and families who have taken part in the VR intervention have given positive feedback about their experiences. The VR process has enabled deeper discussion and tailored support to be provided to meet the family’s needs.”
Richard Dooner, Chief Executive Officer at Antser, said of the partnership: “Nationally, over 36 local authorities have signed up to use and implement Antser VR within its services, but this is the first time our films have been used across a tri-borough partnership.
“We are so pleased to see that our innovative VR programme has shown the power of stepping into the world of the child. By utilising technology and communication across boroughs like Redbridge, Waltham Forest and Enfield, it is showing that professionals can enter a virtual space and engage children effectively, opening conversations in a new way.
“We are thoroughly looking forward to continuing to support the three boroughs in their overall mission to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable young people across London.”
The winners of The MJ Awards 2023 will be announced at a ceremony at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London on 23rd June.
For more information about Antser VR, click here.