Ealing Council launches virtual reality programme to tackle criminal exploitation

28th June, 2021 11:39 am

A local authority youth justice service (YJS) is piloting the use of virtual reality technology in a bid to reduce the number of children being criminally exploited.

Ealing Council has teamed up with technology innovation organisation Antser for the four-month scheme which aims to increase awareness of harmful behaviour and exploitative relationships impacting young people already involved with the service.

Using virtual reality headsets and 360-degree immersive films designed by Antser, children and young people working with Ealing YJS will find themselves immersed in the experience of young people at risk of exploitation.

The programme will give them the opportunity to safely explore the issues of risk, how to identify it, how to avoid it and how to protect themselves, designers said.

Lizzie Gittens, interventions officer at Ealing, explained that the pilot was introduced after the council “recorded that 27 young people were referred to the National Referral Mechanism due to concerns of modern-day slavery and exploitation” last year.

“While trends and awareness of exploitation and county lines have become better known and acknowledged both locally and nationally we, as a service, wanted to ensure we are addressing these risks and supporting our young people to increase their understanding of coercive behaviour, as well as developing their skills to manage peer pressure and implement safety planning strategies.

“As a service we are constantly looking at new and innovative ways to deliver interventions and so the pilot with Antser has given us the opportunity to use a range of resources that we would otherwise not have access to,” she added.

Alison Alexander, strategic director at Antser, said of the partnership: “Our VR technology is currently used across 45 per cent of local authorities, but this is the first time our films are being used to work directly with young people, so we are delighted to be working with Ealing’s YJS to utilise this tool to help protect vulnerable young people.

“We are confident that our VR will not only have a positive impact on those being exploited, but those thousands of children who are also at risk of being exploited, continuing our commitment to providing positive outcomes for children and young people.”

Source: Children & Young People Now

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