Maritime Island Project. at the. Centre for Research with Fragile Families

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1 Maritime Island Project at the Centre for Research with Fragile Families

2 Centre for Research with Fragile Families Children become the victims or the beneficiaries of adult actions. Hugh Cunningham- Emeritus Professor of Social History at the University of Kent The Centre for Research with Fragile Families was launched on May 13 at the University of Greenwich. Through high quality research and practice the Centre will investigate current approaches to social work, social care and health. The Centre will challenge current teaching in social care and tackle existing short falls in social care work. New interactive teaching methods will be employed by the Centre to train and mentor the next generation of social work researchers and practitioners. This will be the first time such technology has been used in a social care context. Staff in the Centre have well-established research links with regional partners, across the UK, Europe and worldwide (including France, Spain, Latin America, Africa, Australia and China). Regional partnerships have been established with the Seashells Children and Families Centre, the Sunlight Centre in Gillingham and the Metro Centre in Greenwich. These partnerships are instrumental to the centre, facilitating a direct transfer of knowledge between the Centre and the voluntary sector. Researchers and students are given direct access to real life situations which is then fed into teaching and research. The Centre will also draw upon expertise across the school and university including input from the Schools of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Science, Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, Business, and Education and Training. Examples of projects within the centre include: 1. Young fathers: A three year Student and Early Career Council (SECC) funded project on the Isle of Sheppey explores issues relating to young fathers. The project addresses teenage pregnancy issues and provides training and education for young fathers. 2. Young Mothers: The project focuses on the experience of motherhood for young mothers with children by more than one partner. The project investigates the willingness of young mothers to maintain their children s relationship with their fathers and the complex issues that arise as a result of these relationships. 3. Young Mothers with partners in prison: Working in close collaboration with the Prisoner Advice and Care Trust (PACT), research investigates the experience and need of young mothers visiting partners in high security prisons. 4. A study of local families: PhD study within the centre is investigating parenting in Barking and Dagenham with particular reference to parents from ethnic minorities. The study is focussing on the sources of advice parents use and their experience of parenting. An innovative aspect of the Centre is the creation of an interactive software programme which will provide a virtual training tool for social workers.

3 Maritime Island Maritime Island is a groundbreaking virtual training tool for social workers piloted by the University of Greenwich. It is part of a new wave of serious games technology which is increasingly used in education, providing students with a virtual environment developed in conjunction with the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences in which to train, plan, rehearse, communicate and collaborate. Maritime Island is significant as it establishes the very first virtual training environment for social workers. Maritime Island will enable health and social care practitioners to explore a range of health and social care situations for families and individuals at certain times and in certain places and spaces. By deploying a virtual person, in practise exercises, social workers will be able to act out, in the safety of the virtual world, challenging, difficult or dangerous encounters with families of children thought to be at risk of harm. The Need According the most recent NSPCC figures, there are at present, nearly 32,000 children in England who are known to be at risk of abuse. Many social work graduates feel ill prepared entering the workforce. Social work placements are not always sufficient in providing social workers with the knowledge, skills and values required for safe and effective work as a social worker. Placements tend to take place within a safe environment under supervision or with the opportunity to seek support and advice from colleagues. The experience is often not sufficient preparation for the realities of employment where social workers often encounter unsafe and stressful situations where their decisions have the potential to either have a positive or negative effect on vulnerable children. Maritime Island provides students studying social work with an additional tool which will influence their ability to practice safely and effectively, particularly during the first year of employment which is a critical time for social workers. Maritime Island has the potential to provide over 60,000 1 students studying social work today with the necessary training and knowledge for a career in social work. How it Works Maritime Island includes a number of scenarios built by undergraduate students in the university s School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences. It contains a community which has a hospital, primary and secondary school, children s centre, police station, prison, doctor s surgery, court house and social services department. It includes scenarios acted out by Future Theatres, an organisation which provided the final script for the scenario and also provided the voices for Elli and Brendan. The scenario is centered on Brendan, a social worker who pays a home visit to a single mother, Elli Grove, and her two children Tara and Liam. The aim is to increase social workers awareness of assessment situations and how their behaviour can have a positive or negative impact on the outcome of the visit. It also allows students to visit and revisit the scenario and reflect upon a range of different approaches and outcomes. 1

4 Beneficiaries Maritime Island moves away from traditional learning methods for students and moves towards learning based on experience and exploration. The potential exists for students of other subjects, such as health and law to be able to act out additional virtual training scenarios on the island. Maritime Island is highly individualised, giving teachers the opportunity to add their own content. By concentrating on specific and intentional learning outcomes, measurable and sustained changes in performance and behaviour can be achieved. Maritime Island is an ideal tool to be used in a teaching environment as it provides a proactive learning experience while simultaneously allowing a large content of knowledge to be explored. Following Continuing Professional Development, the software will also be available to be used by universities throughout the UK and as an ongoing training tool by over 200,000 2 social workers in England. Social work agencies can customise the existing software by adding programmes according to the individual training needs of their staff. Funding The Centre for Research with Fragile Families is seeking support to purchase a game engine to develop the Maritime Island software. A game engine is one of the key components involved in game development. It not only provides the underlying technology but simplifies the process and reduces the costs involved. The overall quality of Maritime Island is improved as the game engine typically includes rendering technology for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine for collision detection, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence and networking capabilities. A game engine is a long term investment as its components are reusable and can be used to develop additional interactive scenarios in other specialities such as law, psychology and emergency medicine. The engine will produce a high quality finished product which can be widely used in the classroom and across a broad range of social care agencies. The Centre for Research with Fragile Families is seeking support from donors to contribute towards the purchase of an engine which will cost 250,000. Donor Benefits Naming Opportunities: Donors will have the opportunity to name streets and buildings within the virtual world of Maritime Island. Profile The donor will receive recognition for their support through university publications including a press release and recognition in our annual donor magazine. University Involvement Donors will be invited to see the engine in use and to visit the School of Health and Social Care to meet staff and students studying social work. 2

5 Opportunities exist to attend the annual Vice Chancellors reception, the School of Health and Social Care Research Day and the Partners in Practice Day along with academic staff, PhD students and representatives from local health care organisations. The day provides an opportunity to meet people working in the health care, social workers and members from the voluntary sector. The School of Health and Social Care The School of Health & Social Care was established in 1990 following the merger of the Dartford & Gravesham School of Nursing and Midwifery and Greenwich & Bexley School of Nursing and Midwifery. In 1993 the school joined the University of Greenwich and is now one of the largest in the university, with over 2,000 full-time equivalent students across the Avery Hill Campus in Eltham and the Medway Campus in Chatham Maritime. The School is close to areas of socio-economic deprivation and the student body reflects this, producing health and social care professionals who have a deep understanding of the most pressing issues and concerns in their locality. Research within the School, strives to be relevant both nationally and internationally. There is a vibrant research and enterprise culture within the School which informs teaching, benefits the community and enriches the creativity of staff. The Centre for Research with Fragile Families is one of three new research centres within the School alongside the Centre for Children, Schools and Families and the Centre for Nursing Research. There are currently 135 students studying the BA Hons in Social Work. Students will gain a nationally recognised qualification in social work and will be registered with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) upon qualification. The programme comprises an equal balance of theory and practice learning. A total of 200 days is spent in practice placements in social work, social care and other welfare organisations, giving students the opportunity to learn professional skills alongside experienced social workers. Students are given the choice to specialise in one of the following three areas: Social Work with Children and Families, Social Work with Adults, or Social Work Practice Education. The programme provides students with the knowledge, skills and values necessary to work in the full range of social work and social care organisations in the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors. For further information on the Centre for Research with Fragile Families, please contact Mark Hainy on or

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