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Virtual Dementia Tour wins gold at Social Worker of the Year Awards

28 November 2017

A group of people receiving an award at event

Essex is celebrating after the Virtual Dementia Tour training team won gold at the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017. Their entry won in the Creative & Innovative Social Work Practice category.

Of the 81 finalists, Essex County Council’s flagship approach to social work secured nominations in eight categories, and also included winners of silver awards, Becky Taylor and Barbara Colley in the newly qualified children’s social worker and mental health social worker category respectively. 

The Virtual Dementia Tour training team, offer a unique and emotive insight into what it is like to live with dementia. The training forms a short tour, where the participant is using specially developed equipment and asked to undertake simple tasks. This is followed by a debrief on why they behaved like they do during the training. 

It also teaches participants about environment, equipment and personal changes they can make to help people living with dementia, and those who care for them have a less challenging life. Eleven staff at Essex County Council have become trainers and between them trained over 350 staff, including the chief executive. 

Stef Lunn, Principal Consultant at award sponsor, OLM Systems, said, “All the teams in the category deserve recognition but one stood tall, above the rest. The Virtual Dementia Tour Training Team is unique and goes beyond traditional training. 

This innovative immersive experience will help those trained better understand those they support and could be rolled out as best practice, nationwide.” 

Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: 

“I am delighted to see the work of our Virtual Dementia Training team recognised and celebrated at a national level, which was described by judges as truly ground-breaking.  

This innovative training approach, which allows people to have a uniquely personal insight into what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone living with dementia, has proven to be invaluable to staff across the organisation. 

“Very well done to the whole team.”

Essex County Council also sponsored the Championing Social Work Values category in partnership with Servelec HSC. 

Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, said: “We’re serious about social work in Essex and are delighted to co-sponsor this award. It celebrates social workers in England who have been champions for social work’s value base through their work or other activities. 

“I was delighted that the Gold Award for Championing Social Work Values was awarded to Carolyne Willow.  She is a real advocate for the profession, staying true to her social work values whilst making a real difference in challenging inequality and social justice. She should be very proud her achievements.” 

The Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017 took place on Friday 24 November, in London.

For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards visit