New counselling project will use Minecraft game to help young people

An innovative new Children North East project which aims to build better mental health amongst young people using the virtual game, Minecraft, has received  funding from Comic Relief and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The ‘Tech for Good’ project is the brainchild of one of our Young People’s Service counsellors, Paul Hedley, who saw that the game – which allows children to create a virtual version of almost anything they can imagine – from castles, to cities to their own house or school – could be a really useful way of delivering therapeutic counselling.

Paul said:

“Minecraft offers an open world for the client and therapist to explore and shape together as well as many possibilities for creative work and in game challenges. This project will run alongside our traditional counselling service, however it will not be a standard part of our service delivery.”

In the initial discovery phase, the views and ideas of young people will be sought and these will shape many aspects of the delivery which will also place safeguarding at the heart of the project.

The £38,000 plus funding will facilitate this initial planning stage when all virtual interaction will take place on secure servers owned by Children North East.

“Once these are operational, we will gradually roll out the service to suitable clients in early September,” Paul said. “Then the project will be fully evaluated to assess the value of using this platform to deliver therapeutic counselling in the future.”

Benefits for autistic children

Minecraft is proving particularly beneficial to children on the autism spectrum. For young people with autism, Minecraft provides a view on the world and the rules that frame it and teachers and autism specialists around the world report that when young people work in multiplayer mode, they figure out how to talk to each other and share ideas.

Children North East was one of only 20 out of 361 organisation who applied, to receive a grant through their digital development fund aimed at supporting charities to strengthen their services in light of the continued impact of Covid-19.

More than £1.3 million has been awarded as part of the new Tech for Good programme, ‘Build’, which was originally developed in response to the need for charities to use technology to explore different approaches to delivering better services.

Now, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the drive for organisations to explore how digital and design capabilities can help transform or maximise their work in supporting vulnerable people even further.

The programme allows Children North East to explore this new approach to therapeutic counselling and will give us access to technical support from experts and advisors at CAST ( the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology).

Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said:

“Over the last year, so many organisations have transformed the way they work to continue to provide vital support amidst unprecedented challenges. As we begin to think about building back, digital development has a critical role to play. We hope that Build will provide these projects with time and space to experiment, to learn from one another and to realise effective digital solutions to help meet pressing social needs. Together with Comic Relief and CAST, we look forward to learning alongside those we support and sharing their work.”

Samir Patel, CEO of Comic Relief, said:

“We are pleased to be able to support 20 organisations with Tech for Good funding over the next year, to take a user-informed approach to the digital development of their services. We hope the learning that will emerge from this year’s diverse portfolio of funding will contribute to strengthening the social tech ecosystem in the longer term, empowering more organisations to use digital, design, and data and work together in new ways to increase their impact.”

Our Young People’s Service Manager, Ricky Murray, added:

“I’m really excited about this project and truly believe that it will be fully embraced by those who wouldn’t otherwise engage in therapeutic services.”