Antser, one of the country’s leading providers of transformational solutions to the health, education, and social care sectors, plans to continue its drive for significant improvements in the future of children’s social care this Foster Care Fortnight.
With Foster Care Fortnight running from the 9th-21st of May, Abby Cooke, VR Service Manager at Antser – pioneers of the world’s first virtual reality (VR) enabled behaviour change programme across the children’s services sector – has stated that “more needs to be done for children in care” and that “technology should not be underestimated in its effectiveness to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people.”
Antser’s VR programme uses 360-degree immersive films and VR headsets to enable practitioners, carers, parents, and even young people to understand real-life situations such as exploitation, abuse, attachment, and trauma from the perspective of a child. The technology aims to raise awareness and increase empathy to ultimately facilitate positive behaviour-change and provide better outcomes for children and young people.
Foster Care Fortnight aims to highlight the importance of fostering and showcase how foster carers and the teams that support them can transform the lives of vulnerable children across the country.
Abby Cooke said: “Over the past two years, many social workers and foster carers have had to adapt to new and innovative ways of working to support vulnerable children and young people throughout the course of the pandemic.”
Statistics released by the Department for Education (DfE) revealed that, as of 31st March 2021, there were roughly 80,850 children in care, representing a 1% increase from the previous year.
Abby explains: “We continue to be moved by the ongoing number of children and young people in care and it is our mission to do our best to transform the lives of vulnerable children by giving them a voice. Every day we strive to use innovative technology to support the sector in delivering better outcomes for children in care.
“There is no denying that the many issues facing vulnerable children, young people, and families such as abuse, exploitation and neglect have had a wider negative impact over the years. To contribute to long-lasting change, we must first understand what it is like to walk in the footsteps of vulnerable individuals and find new innovative ways to use technology to support those in care and the teams around them.
“At Antser, we provide the guidance, expert knowledge and support needed for families to flourish. We want to focus on prevention and intervention using a holistic approach and enabling individuals we work with to take control of the narrative.”
With the last Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services taking place in June 2021, the next review, which is due out soon, is set to radically transform the system to raise the standards for children in care.
Abby added: “From working directly with fostering services, we have heard first-hand how innovative technology like VR can be a revolutionary tool in securing better outcomes for vulnerable children across the UK.
“VR has the potential to increase one’s learning, understanding, behaviour and skill sets, and this has been evident in several of our partnerships within the police, health, virtual schools, and fostering services across the country.
“Just recently, we’ve heard how our VR programme was used to reduce barriers and improve engagement between a parent in a foster placement, and professionals involved with the family. By immersing the parent into two of our VR films, they were enabled to understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
“Following the VR session, the parent described having a better understanding of the concerns raised by professionals and in turn reengaged with support services.”
Working with around 50 local authorities and a host of independent providers who have successfully embedded the VR technology within their services, Antser has recently overseen a successful partnership with Flourish Fostering, a therapeutic provider of care for children and young people, becoming one of the first in the UK to use VR to upskill their staff and foster parents.
In a bid to understand the root cause of difficult or disruptive behaviours which are often prevalent amongst children in care, Antser VR was used to train staff and foster parents with the emotional resilience and in-depth understanding that is essential for them to develop therapeutic fostering skills and, ultimately, to maintain a good relationship with their foster child during challenging times.
In a survey conducted with foster parents and social workers, over half of respondents (60%) had never used virtual reality before. Results also revealed that after using the VR, 100% of respondents confirmed they had a deeper understanding of the child’s perspective, and that the VR had equipped them with the knowledge to make an impact in their work.
One foster parent who trialled the VR commented: “This session was great, it really shows the child’s perspective. I feel it could also help new foster parents understand the things that could either help or hinder in certain situations.”
Abby continued: “We are deeply committed to making a difference and we look forward to receiving the next Independent Review of Children’s Social Care Services as we strongly hope and believe that technology should be included in the steps that help shape the future of children’s social care.”