Helping Hands is a digital tool that supports children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse with managing their trauma. Accompanying the tool is an online platform that helps trusted adults offer effective support. The platform is currently being piloted with five organisations across the UK. Feedback from the pilot phase will inform further development.

Digital tool

The Helping Hands web application is aimed at children (8-11). The digital tool provides interactive resources on trauma and its effects in the context of domestic abuse. Helping Hands helps children manage ongoing experiences that they may be facing and helps them to understand what has happened and why.

Wellbeing and mental health

The digital tool focuses on children’s wellbeing and mental health. The resource includes a range of  interactive resources that have been  designed to be age appropriate and to present content in a way that is digestible and engaging to children. Resources have been modelled on proven techniques that can help children cope with the trauma symptoms that they might experience. 

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The first interpretation of the tool has focused on children at key stage 2. It has been co-designed with children, professionals and steering groups to ensure that it is user centred and follows best practices. Helping Hands has been designed following five key principles:

  1. Safety and safeguarding have to be incorporated throughout.
  2. It has to be trusted by both children and professionals.
  3. Resources have to be age appropriate.
  4. Design and aesthetics have to be engaging and user led.
  5. Its function should be to enhance, not replace face to face services.

An image depicting the UX design and app development process, from co-design, prototype, pilot through to launch.

Pilot phase

During the Pilot phase five organisations across the UK have been given access to the digital tool to trial it with their service users over a 6-9 month period. Following this period feedback will help us identify what improvements should be made, particularly around managing safeguarding risks. During this period user testing sessions will be coordinated with both staff and children. It is  vital that we see how the tool fits into professional practice long term. The Pilot phase will help us validate whether the digital  tool is: 

  • Useful to the children.
  • Easy to use for the children.
  • Age appropriate.
  • Trauma informed.
  • Easy to use & practical for organisations, professionals and trusted adults helping the children to access it.

Tech for Good

Helping Hands is funded by the Comic Relief Tech for Good programme, Peter Sowerby Foundation and MCF. 

Safety plan

On first usage of the app the children are on-boarded by a trusted adult where they can customise the app with different themes and choose their guide character. During this session the child creates a Safety Plan that they can use in emergency situations and can access from the apps dashboard. Each time the user checks in to the app we run through a series of safeguarding measures. These measures check how they are feeling and that they are safe before they start.

An image depicting the Safety Plan tool.

Interactive learning

A variety of games help children identify and learn about different emotions. For example, in the Iceberg game users are presented with a variety of scenarios and are asked to decide what the character in the story is feeling on the Inside or Outside. No score is given and children can explore emotions in a non judgmental way, with no right or wrong answers.

An image depicting two of the interactive activity templates.


The story section is a collection of video storybooks selected by the AVA team and organised into categories. The stories help children understand different types of feelings and develop strategies for managing them. There are also calming stories and stories for bedtime.

An image depicting the story tool.

Scrapbook tool

The Scrapbook tool enables children to express themselves creatively with writing, drawing and collage tools. Their creations are saved and are available in a gallery.  Children can use a variety of tools to create colourful and original scrapbooks. The user can select from a theme or create their own. Themes include a selection of  predefined backgrounds, stickers and stamps that relate to a subject, for example holidays, family and friendships . 

An image depicting the scrapbook tool that enables children to express themselves creatively with writing, drawing and collage.

Casual games

The games section includes a selection of calming casual games that the user can play to help them relax. Rather than creating bespoke games we are licensing HTML5 games so that over time the section can grow in a sustainable way (at a much lower cost and within shorter timescales than creating bespoke games).

An image depicting some of the games available in Helping Hands.

Problem solving tool

The problem solving tool provides a framework for recognizing problems and identifying positive steps for solving them. Example scenarios are presented as stories that help the children assess the effectiveness of potential solutions. Using the same assessment template children can rate different solutions to their own problems, This helps them identify solutions that are more  likely to work. At the end of the process children can select one of the good solutions to try. Solutions that have been selected by children to try are stored in the My Solutions section and can be edited by the user later. Next time the user logs in they select a status for the solution to help then identify what works and what doesn’t.

An image depicting the Problem Solving tool that helps children find solutions to their problems.

Affirmation cards

Affirmation cards are awarded to the user when they have completed tasks in each section of the app. Cards that have been awarded are stored in the Affirmation Cards section and are available to use in the Scrapbook tool. Each Affirmation Card will have accompanying character feedback. 

Content Management System 

The AVA team can manage the content of the digital tool via a headless CMS Strapi. The team can manage the safety plan, set up new learning activities from a variety of templates, create problem solving activities, configure scrapbook themes and tools, and embed videos and licensed HTML5 games.

An image depicting the CMS that is used to create the resources, activities and games in the digital tool.
The CMS enables the AVA team to build new games and create new tools without needing additional development.

Support Platform

Helping Hands was designed to complement existing support services that children receive in their recovery, not as a replacement. The platform that accompanies the digital tool helps organisations and the trusted adults that are working with children monitor how children are coping with their trauma. The first version of the platform focuses on implementing the essential features required to enable organisations to be set up to manage the trusted adults that are supporting children. Trusted Adults can create accounts for children and are able to monitor a child’s activity. They receive email notifications when certain events occur and can invite parents to view a child's activity. 

An image depicting the UI of the admin support platform.
The web platform helps trusted adults working with children to monitor how children are coping with their trauma.

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App design & development services

Web design and app development

AVA Helping Hands is a web application that supports children that have experienced domestic abuse to manage their trauma.

UX design

  • Co-design 
  • UX design
  • UX prototyping
  • Information architecture
  • App design

App development

  • Web application development
  • HTML5 canvas
  • Strapi CMS 
  • Heroku
  • Amazon AWS
  • Acceptance testing
  • Technical product management
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