VR transforming support for vulnerable children

Evaluation of virtual reality training used by social enterprise Cornerstone is showing positive results among carers and children’s professionals.

Joe Lepper | 11th Feb 19
Image shows a person looking through a Virtual Reality headset

Virtual reality tech has the potential to significantly improve support that care sector charities can offer vulnerable children, according to latest research.

Social enterprise Cornerstone has been piloting the use of its virtual reality training in 30 areas involving those who work closely with children in care, including foster carers, adopters, social workers, judges and teachers.

The training used immersive virtual reality (VR) showing the sort of harrowing experiences children have endured before being taken into care. It also involves content looking at how drug and alcohol abuse affects a child in the womb.

Virtual reality helps improve understanding

Evaluation found that the VR tech helped improve users understanding of the trauma vulnerable children have faced and also the support they can offer them.

Among those who used the tech, 91% said they believed VR can change the perspective of those working with vulnerable children in terms of the effect of trauma and 84% said VR has helped them make decisions more quickly.

In addition, 72% said they will alter the support they offer this group of vulnerable children.

Virtual reality has the ability to increase users emotional engagement due to its immersive nature, according to 2016 research by technology company YuMe.

Cornerstone Chief Executive Helen Costa said: “We’ve spent 18-months developing and perfecting the application of VR in order to shift understanding and alter ingrained behaviours across a raft of settings in children’s social care.

“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.

“The fact that our VR tool has shown exactly this impact in such a short space of time is beyond all our hopes and expectations. Crucially it illustrates the power of immersive technology in solving complex social issues.

“Using technology as a behaviour change tool has enormous potential for some of our biggest societal challenges – whether that be tackling knife crime, obesity, or climate change.

“The common theme running through all of this is altering behaviour and I am delighted that we have found a way to harness the technology and show real results with real impact.”