Creative & Innovative Social Work Practice


Virtual Dementia Tour Training Team

ORGANISATION: Essex County Council

AWARD(S): Creative Innovative Social Work Practice


The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) uses special equipment to give people with healthy brains a taste of the challenges and sensory impairments faced by individuals with mid-stage Alzheimer’s Disease. Originally developed in the US, its UK training provider has now trained Essex council staff to deliver the hands-on course to colleagues and others.


While this was primarily done to ensure geographically dispersed adult social care staff could be trained up as efficiently as possible, the VDT has now been opened up to all council employees, many of whom are also carers. The 11 council trainers – most of them frontline practitioners or social work assistants – manage their responsibilities on top of their day jobs.


Staff and family carers alike praised the power of the VDT training, which frequently leads to profound changes in the ways in which people approach those with dementia. “The experience of the tour was overwhelming,” said one older people’s team manager. “I had no idea as to the impact dementia could have on day-to-day senses, and how this could leave you feeling.”


The judges, meanwhile, hailed Essex’s “bold and brave learning and development work” and called for the model to be rolled out nationally.


This entry was innovative and different. It demonstrates thinking outside the box and is experiential and evidence based.

Prof Hugh McLaughlin, Editor, Social Work Education: The International Journal

The impact this training is having on both professionals, care homes and families stands out. Dementia is a community issue and this approach is embracing that sentiment, helping growing numbers of people to see the world through the eyes of those who have dementia and therefore better able to respond to their needs.

Sherry Malik, Director of Children’s Services, NSPCC

The training was very uncomfortable and almost painful, but it brought home dramatically the impact on all the senses that dementia has. It has deepened my understanding of people with dementia, and when I meet with people that have this diagnosis, I feel I have a better insight into some of what they may be experiencing.

Social Worker

The experience of the tour was overwhelming. I had no idea as to the impact dementia could have on day to day senses, and how this could leave you feeling. On a personal level, this has helped me understand and support a family member, and explain and give some insight to my wider family.

Older Peoples Team Manager


Family Safeguarding Teams Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire County Council

Linda Nelmes, Cafcass


North Kent Children in Care Team, Kent County Council

Skip to content