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Greater Manchester adopts VR to reduce youth violence


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Knife fight
Image source: Tomsickova

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has begun to use virtual reality (VR) technology in an effort to reduce youth violence in the city.

Its Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has launched the Virtual Decisions programme – otherwise known as Violence Prevention through Virtual Education – in a partnership with the Greater Manchester Magistrate’s Association.

This follows a 12-week pilot programme, created and managed by creative arts company Round Midnight, that involved 1,395 pupils from 31 schools in the city. It is now being rolled out to pupils from years five to eight across Greater Manchester.

It involves using VR to place a young person in a realistic scenario in which they face dilemmas and have to make choices that can lead to various outcomes.

This is followed by a 12-week curriculum to reinforce the lessons learned.

GMCA said the programme has been shown to impact greatly on awareness, attitudes and behaviours around knife violence.

Young people's safety

Mayor Andy Burnham said: “I’m really excited that our Violence Reduction Unit, in partnership with Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Association and Round Midnight, has been able to put this virtual reality education programme in place to help keep more young people in our region safe from knife violence.

“The technology gives a great insight into the many challenges and decisions young people face in their day to day lives. It shows just how important every decision they make can be in leading them closer to or further away from danger.”

Stuart Lane, director and founder of Round Midnight, said: “Virtual_Decisions helps young people to grapple with real world scenarios in a safe, virtual setting. It uses powerful, immersive technology within a highly engaging format to create empathy and challenge perceptions.

“We’ve had such a great response to Virtual_Decisions from schools in Greater Manchester, who see its potential to improve life chances and reduce crime.”

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