Dr. Tarsem Singh Cooner Receives Prestigious Award for Innovating Child Protection Training

Dr. Tarsem Singh Cooner with Aman Basi (Practice Development Manager, Sandwell Childrens’ Trust) at the award ceremony at the Exchange.  

Dr Tarsem singh

Dr Tarsem Singh Cooner from the Department of Social Work and Social Care has won an award for ‘Outstanding Impact on Understanding, Learning and Participation’ 

Announced at an event at the Exchange last week, Dr Cooner was also highly commended for ‘Outstanding Impact on Social Welfare’. The awards are for his work on the Research Informed Virtual Relationship-based Practice Training (RIVRT) project. RIVRT is a training method that uses 360-degree immersive videos to allow social workers to learn about the barriers and enablers to building effective long-term relationships in child protection work. 

RIVRT was funded by Sandwell Children’s Trust and is based on an ethnographic research study that started pre-pandemic to explore what encourages good relationship-based practice in child protection social work.  Researchers followed the daily lives of child protection workers and recorded, in rich detail, the tone and atmosphere of every encounter with families.    

While the study produced a number of journal articles, the researchers wanted to take this further and asked themselves ‘how can we get these research messages out to practitioners and managers in an authentic way?’.  

Tarsem’s inspiration came while watching the Gadget Show. realised that immersive 360-degree video could authentically recreate the experiences of the researchers, social workers, and family members.  

He applied for ‘Impact Acceleration Follow on Funding’ to create Apps for the Google Play and the Apple App Stores, and this stimulated interest from Sandwell to create a training package for their social workers. 

Work on RIVRT started in 2020 and over lockdown Tarsem worked with social workers, managers and young people at Sandwell Children’s Trust. This team co-produced a series of scripts that followed a social worker’s engagement with a fictional family over an 11-month period.  

These scripts became the basis for a seven module, two-day training package based on 360-degree videos that provides the ‘best seat in the house’ for the trainees. RIVRT delivers an immersive, realistic experience enabling learners to feel as though they are actually present in the scenes. From this immersive experience, they learn the subtle differences in actions, body language, tone and relational approaches that can impact on positive and negative outcomes for families involved in child protection processes. 

The University of Birmingham Enterprise team has been integral in helping Tarsem and Sandwell Children’s Trust in getting RIVRT to the stage where they can commercialise the project, and make sure it can be accessed by other local authorities to train their workers. The team facilitated market research, developed evaluation licences for an early version of the training, supported applications for the ARC accelerator and the University’s Medici training, and developed the licence agreement with Sandwell Children’s Trust.  

If you’d like to explore commercialisation of your research, reach out to the Enterprise team, by contacting Simon Jones, Business Development Manager at s.jones.11@bham.ac.uk.


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