VR technology which allows social workers to experience abuse through a child’s eyes to be used to cut gang crime

Virtual reality technology which allows social workers to experience abuse through a child’s eyes is set to be used to cut knife and gang crime following a successful pilot.

The pioneering technology, which is being used by more than 30 local authorities and organisations to give social workers, teachers and district judges a better understanding of the needs of children in care, will be developed to help troubled youngsters following a spate of fatal stabbings.

Cornerstone, the company which pioneers the cutting-edge technology, is in talks with London boroughs to see if it can prevent children being unwittingly exploited by gangs – and even help to de-radicalise Muslim teenagers.

It comes after the programme, the first of its kind in the world which sees social workers wear headsets to experience abuse and neglect from a child’s perspective – was hailed “revolutionary” by the head of the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS), which represents children in care.

Anthony Douglas said: “Foster carers, adoptive carers and parents can understand the impact of major family issues like neglect and domestic abuse much quicker and in a much deeper way through being immersed in a VR experience, than is possible through conventional learning programmes.  I strongly believe that VR can have as similar positive impact on many of the social issues we face in Britain today.”

Cornerstone’s CEO Helen Costa said: “We have been talking to those Councils most affected by violent youth crime, such as Lambeth who are willing to look outside the box to see how we can apply what we’ve achieved in children social care to the escalating issues of knife crime and youth crime and that’s our next massive challenge.

“A young person is going to interact with a VR experience much more readily than they will sit down with a police officer for a cup of tea. When it comes to child sexual exploitation, county lines and gang culture – kids are roped in unwittingly at first. We think harnessing the power of virtual reality to both engage and challenge kids’ perspectives will help them to make better life choices, and as the leaders in VR based behaviour change, we are well placed to take on such an ambitious but worthwhile project.”

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