IRIS is a specialist domestic abuse (DA) training, support and referral programme for General Practices that has been positively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. For more than a decade the successful implementation of IRIS across many areas has demonstrated the unique opportunity GP consultations provide for disclosure and referral for support. This is in line with figures from the Department of Health, which shows that 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and these are often a woman’s first, or only, point of contact. Therefore, investing in IRIS is an effective and strategic way to address DA, which is why Tameside Council, in Greater Manchester, recently decided to implement the intervention across the area.
“This programme, which provides specialist domestic abuse support and training to GPs, is an important part of our strategy to create safe spaces for victims and survivors of domestic abuse to seek help. Most people have access to a GP so they are key to identifying domestic abuse and offering appropriate support”, explains Tameside Council Executive Member for Population Health, Councillor Eleanor Wills.
Since January, the Jigsaw Support team, the partner specialist organisation chosen to deliver IRIS in Tameside, has been working to bring on board all general practices currently operating across the area. The same organisation has been successfully running the ADViSE Programme, which is the second intervention developed by IRISi to improve the response and identification of Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse (D&SVA) within sexual health clinics.
“We have been piloting the ADViSE service in Tameside for the past 16 months, hence we were familiar with the IRIS model, which was helpful”, explains Lisa Wright, Operational Manager Jigsaw Support. “DA referrals from GP surgeries in Tameside are extremely low, therefore we are aware that a large number of victims are not currently being identified and offered support. We have previously attempted to engage GPs, who are receptive and willing to improve their response but have highlighted several barriers. We feel that the IRIS programme will eliminate these barriers and allow us access to victims not previously identified”, she completes.
Currently, the DA outreach service receives an average of 100 referrals per month, while Greater Manchester Police deals with around 500 reports of DA monthly specifically in the Tameside area. “We feel that the potential for IRIS in Tameside is huge. From our experience with ADViSE, we are aware that a big-time investment is needed initially to engage and train surgeries. But, following this, we expect a large number of referrals into service as we are aware of the prevalence of DA in Tameside”, finishes Lisa.