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Friday, 09 December 2016

Huddersfield to use interactive gaming technology as social work training aid

Written by The Editorial Team

A computer game enabling trainee social workers to immerse themselves in a wide range of challenging situations is among a range of initiatives being developed by the University of Huddersfield, backed by the Departments of Health and Education, million-pound Social Work Teaching Partnerships.

The major new policy of creating Social Work Teaching Partnerships aims to raise standards of training in the social work profession by linking local authorities and universities.

Now, it has been announced that Huddersfield-based Kirklees Council is to take the lead in a large new partnership, alongside the University of Huddersfield – which has an established relationship with the Kirklees authority – plus Calderdale Council, the University of York, the City of York and North Yorkshire’s local authorities.

‌In its first phase, the new partnership and its £1 million funding will run until March 2018. At the University of Huddersfield, senior figures in the social work division of the School of Human and Heath Sciences are making plans and will soon begin to recruit for new posts that will be created, including a number of lecturer-practitioners at the universities and practice-in-education consultants based at the local authorities.

Brid Featherstone (pictured), the University’s Professor of Social Work, said that the partnership would ensure that social work remained a buoyant subject area at Huddersfield. She added that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in social work is one of the special strengths of the University and now there will be an opportunity to spread and embed this across the partnership.

Interactive Technology

‌The partnership will draw on the University’s established expertise in the design and development of serious computer games to be used as training aids. For example, a game that addresses the issue of domestic abuse in the Caribbean has been under development. 

Another is an interactive game that simulates a home visit by a social worker and the wide range of issues they might have to deal with.

Principal Lecturer Gill Kirkman, Subject Leader in Social Work, said: “It will be used for both pre- and post-qualified students, as the accompanying teaching materials will allow the subject matter to deepen and become more complex.  It will simulate a number of home visits focussing on a number of complex issues across the life course.”

‌The game will adopt the “Think Family” approach, favoured by the Government, which aims to ensure that social workers are trained to deal equally effectively with both adults and children. 

Ms Kirkman added: “We also need local authorities to retain experienced staff, and they are more likely to do that if they offer a creative and innovative approach to CPD.”

A portion of the partnership funding will be used to support research, encouraging social workers to undertake Masters and PhD programmes.

An important result of the partnership will a much-needed increase in the number of local authority work placements for social work students. And an innovation at the University of Huddersfield will be an apprenticeship for a young adult who has recently left care.

Kim Heanue, Subject Leader in Social Work, said: “He or she will come and work at the University for 12 months, and have a really key role in the development of  our computer game and in providing service-user expertise across our courses – in terms of how we develop our curriculum – and interviewing students.”

For more on the University of Huddersfield, visit: