Pioneering VR organisation urges local authorities to embrace technology and prepare for a surge in referrals

Local authorities across the UK are being urged to further embrace technology as they prepare for a surge in referrals in September from lockdown’s ‘invisible’ children.

Many vulnerable children have been invisible, with a massive dip in referrals up to 75% in some areas, during lockdown. When schools, health and youth services open in September, these children will once again become visible to these support services who will resume referrals to social care support, creating a spike.

The Cornerstone Partnership – part of Antser Group and creator of the world’s first VR experience for Children’s Services – is therefore anticipating a surge in referrals and with a tried and tested VR programme, they want local authorities to consider alternative methods to cope with the demand that will be placed on Children’s Services.

Already used by over 50 Local Authorities, the immersive VR programme is a technology enabled behaviour change tool, designed to support the team around the child and provide a holistic approach to training and recruitment.

Alison Alexander, Cornerstone CEO and Practice Authority Director, commented: “With an increase in referrals expected, vulnerable children will need all the support that is available to ensure their best outcomes. VR is a rapid behaviour change tool – people spend less time in VR, versus any other learning method, to secure a positive outcome – resulting in more time for support staff to invest in front line Children’s Services.

“VR treats us to an invaluable opportunity – walking in the footsteps of a child on the receiving end of an abusive, neglectful or hurtful situation, right through from birth to adolescence. This is a must have programme for every professional working in the sector.”

Southend Council, who were a trailblazer authority for the VR programme, initially rolled the programme out to senior leaders. Following success, it is now delivered not just to social workers but to educational psychologists, virtual school leaders and mental health workers.

“Our aim is to ensure those who experience the programme have a more immediate connection with the child. We are living in a new world where virtual and physical interactions can be combined to offer a truly holistic support service,” Alexander added.

“Now is the time to look forward to our next steps, a transition stage. Whilst we have some reflection time, it provides the opportunity to look at how to implement technology and be prepared for providing the best quality care and support for children and young people, post lockdown.”

As well as ensuring foster carers are ‘placement ready’, and curbing unplanned endings with foster placements, there are benefits to be found with the wider children’s services provision including education, early help and healthcare.

The Cornerstone VR programme offers a number of methods of delivery, including virtual and remote training and delivery. As social distancing continues to play a part in life going forward, this can only benefit professionals who will be relying on supporting remote contact.

As part of the Group’s efforts to raise awareness of embracing technology, a series of free to attend webinars will also be running through August, aimed at local authorities and the education sector and delivering professional advice and expertise on fostering, education and children’s services.

For more information about the Cornerstone VR programme, and to book onto the free webinars, visit https://info.thecornerstonepartnership.com/webinar_signup

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