The Cornerstone Partnership is a social enterprise based in London with a mission to improve the lives of children and families touched by the care system. Cornerstone has pioneered the world’s first virtual reality (VR) experience for children’s services, with the goal of getting children on their best path as soon as possible.
Cornerstone Virtual Reality harnesses the power of VR to change behaviour by generating “emotional understanding” and empathy resulting in a positive impact on the relationship dynamic between the adult and the child. With a more resilient adult child relationship, families can be kept together, and placement breakdowns can be avoided.
During COVID-19, The Cornerstone Partnership, in connection with Antser, has provided the ‘Remote Family Support Model’ to support local authorities and social care professionals during the pandemic. This is achieved by giving quick and easy access remotely to professional counselling and peer mentoring services for foster carers, adopters and special guardians.
Cornerstone’s VR programme is a technology enabled behaviour change tool, designed to support the team around the child in understanding a child’s emotions, trauma and potential triggers so that they can support, care and guide them differently.
Borne out of first-hand experience of the social care system, this powerful approach quickly and effectively delivers the knowledge, understanding and empathy that otherwise can take years to develop. The immersive nature of VR, and the clinically led content library, allows the user to experience the impact of trauma, abuse and neglect through the eyes of the child. The services include:
- VR self-serve - A day-long VR practitioner training course training 12 social workers or staff to deploy VR to others, access to content library and access to the equipment for 12 months and remote support provided after training course prompting participants to think strategically about how they might use VR.
- VR trauma training – A two-hour one-off VR trauma training session to provide professionals with a fast-track understanding of trauma and its consequences for children and families, build empathy around trauma and learn what good intervention looks like.
- VR safeguarding and contextual safeguarding – A one-off session on the VR safeguarding model which allows professionals to view contextual risks from the perspective of children as they unfold and supports recognising, understanding and acting upon contextual risks.
- Improved understanding - improved understanding of children’s behaviour ensuring decisions reﬂect the child’s best interests
- Increased empathy for children who have experienced trauma, facilitating more targeted support
- Increase in shared understanding - creating a shared understanding of trauma and attachment helping to bridge communication barriers
- Improved resilience of key workers - including social workers, social care practitioners, teachers and carers working in challenging environments.
- Cost efficiencies – Due to improved recruitment and retention of foster carers and increase in the stability of placements.
Cornerstone’s year-long pilot using immersive VR technology in social care training with 30 local authorities and social care organisations across the UK has enabled frontline staff to enhance their understanding of trauma and neglect that children in care have experienced.
Alma Economics’ evaluation of the Cornerstone VR (CVR) Pilot Programme highlighted that:
- 93% of social workers believed CVR will help attract the right type off foster carers and adopters
- 72% said they will do things differently as a result of the training
- 84% believed CVR will help them make quicker decisions
- 90% believed CVR will impact the type of support they offer to children and their families.