Antser collaborates with social work teaching partnership to prepare a new generation of social workers
Antser has recently undertaken a new project with The West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership (WMSWTP) to implement virtual reality (VR) when training social work students and newly qualified social workers (NQSW) to better prepare them for their roles in the field.
In their commitment to better prepare practitioners for life as social workers, the WMSWTP made the decision to pilot Antser’s VR programme to provide students with the unrivalled opportunity to immerse themselves in the real-life experiences of vulnerable children and families.
As global pioneers of the first VR-enabled behaviour change programme for the health and social care sector, this innovative partnership with Antser means that social workers, who missed training opportunities during the pandemic, will be able to catch up on their learning quickly and efficiently whilst contributing to their training to adapt to real-life cases.
The aim of using Antser VR was to improve the wider understanding of the impact of trauma on children, whilst keeping the voice of the child at the forefront of social workers’ minds.
Zoe Yeomans, Lecturer in Practice Learning at Staffordshire University Social Work said:
“Real-life placements help prepare practitioners for life as social workers. Throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, our students and NQSWs have had very few opportunities to experience placements. The knowledge that comes with that is invaluable, and so many students have not been able to access these real scenarios.
Our students have primarily been focusing on situations they may face and learning how to understand their emotions whilst remaining professional. This partnership with Antser has been so beneficial to us as our social workers have been able to gain the vital knowledge and skills needed to carry out their jobs correctly and safely”
Since February 2022, the pilot has enabled multiple immersive sessions to be delivered across several educational partners within the WMSWTP, including Birmingham City University and the University of Worcester.
To date, around 400 social work students and wider practitioners have benefited from this partnership, including more than 300 students and over 100 qualified practitioners, each with future sessions scheduled to take place throughout 2022.
One student social worker from the University of Worcester shared: “How would I experience these typical scenarios unless I had lived through them myself? This is the next best thing. I might be dealing with these types of scenarios as a social worker, so it has helped my understanding of them.”
Another student social worker from the WMSWTP said: “It is really a very creative and excellent way of sensitising, especially new social workers, to what lies ahead. I believe it would go a long way to help social workers to be very reflective in practice, empathetic and effective.”
Richard Dooner, CEO at Antser, said: “It has been incredible to oversee this new project with The West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership, as we have been able to begin bridging the educational gap formed by the pandemic whilst also revitalising practice in a modern way, ultimately reaching out to students and professionals to better support those receiving social care services.
“The unique aspect of our VR programme is that it has presented the next generation of social workers the opportunity to experience real-life placements in a 360-degree perspective, which has already shown to be so vital and beneficial to their learning when training to become fully qualified.”
Richard continued: “We are so pleased with the feedback so far and glad to see our innovative partnership has already delivered better outcomes for those involved. Some of the results have demonstrated that VR provides social worker students and NQSWs the opportunity to reflect on their own emotions and manage them effectively before dealing with real-life cases. It can be life-changing.”
The WMSWTP plans to implement the VR technology at upcoming simulation conferences and across other disciplines at Staffordshire University and Staffordshire Police to help develop staff’s knowledge and experience.