Virtual reality technology adds a new dimension to Freedom Bus roadshows

15th August 2022 | Awareness raising ideas

The Clewer Initiative

Using virtual reality headsets to raise awareness of modern slavery

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The Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership (PLASP) has been pioneering anti-slavery action and awareness for the last 5 years. Sion Hall, the chair of PLASP is always looking for new and exciting ways to communicate the issues of modern slavery to different audiences. He became aware that the Lancashire Constabulary had invested in a number of virtual reality (VR) headsets and he began researching how this cutting-edge technology could be used to raise awareness of modern slavery.

Sion explains: “We have just commissioned a team at Cumbria University to create a series of virtual reality films around the theme of modern slavery. The first film will focus on sexual exploitation and is aimed at members of the public as well as for professionals who may encounter victims of modern slavery – we will ensure it is suitable and not explicit but still hard-hitting and a powerful, communication tool. The film should be ready by Christmas and we plan to use the virtual reality headsets to show it to many people on the Freedom Bus.

“We hope the VR experience will attract a younger audience to the bus and enable them to engage with modern slavery in a fresh way. It should be extremely immersive, impactful and informative, leaving a lasting impression on everyone who takes part.

“We believe we are the first Anti-Slavery Partnership in the UK to use virtual reality to raise awareness of modern slavery and we think the films and headsets will be useful in many different contexts such as modern slavery training for the local police and many other roles.”

Updates to the Freedom Bus

The VR headsets will add a further dimension to the Freedom Bus roadshows. The Freedom Bus is an ordinary school bus during the week but used for events and roadshows at weekends. It is covered with the name and phone number of the Modern Slavery Helpline and wherever it goes, people take notice.

After four and a half years, the Freedom Bus signage is beginning to look a bit tired but Sion has secured the funding to get a new Freedom Bus which will be ready by Anti-Slavery Day in October.

Sion adds: “The new Freedom Bus will continue to display the details of the Modern Slavery Helpline, but it will also include The Clewer Initiative’s logo because The Clewer Initiative is a key partner in our work in the area.

“I was recently told about a class of 9–11-year-olds who used the bus to go on a school trip. Many of the children, when they saw the signage, started talking about modern slavery and the teachers were able to seize the opportunity to explain more about the crime. This sort of awareness raising costs us nothing – it is a big win and it is happening week after week in and around Lancashire.”

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