In February 2017, the IRIS Programme was going from strength to strength, so we decided it was about time to take a step further. IRISi was born then, as the social enterprise responsible for officially sustaining and expanding the rollout of the successful intervention which had already been running across the UK for seven years or so. Through the IRIS Programme, more and more general practice clinicians and staff were gaining knowledge about Domestic Abuse (DA) and learning how to identify and respond to patients affected. Consequently, more and more specialist third-sector organisations were coming on board to collaborate in partnership with us in the delivery of the intervention, resulting in an incredible amount of service users – especially women – being supported through the programme. But our mission and vision at IRISi were always to go further. We set out our aim to promote and improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence across the health system.
Six years have passed since IRISi became reality, and, within this period, we managed to work in partnership and bring IRIS to many more areas. In 2021, we also launched ADViSE, which adapted the IRIS Programme for sexual health settings, and it is already running in Greater Manchester, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Work is also underway to bring two ADViSE programmes to London. Our next steps will include focusing on Dentistry and Pharmacy settings, to develop evidence-based and cost-effective models on again improving the identification and response to Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse (D&SVA) by healthcare professionals.
The growth of our team at IRISi and our interventions became possible thanks to everyone directly and indirectly involved. Commissioners, Specialist Partner Organisations, Advocate Educators, Clinical Leads and the IRISi team itself are essential to enable the great results obtained over time. This is especially true when it comes to the main reason why we do what we do: supporting service users, victims and survivors of D&SVA. So, on our 6th anniversary, we invited six people to share their voices and their experience of working with us at IRISi and our interventions – and here they are.
Dr Heather Potter
IRIS Clinical Lead in Port Talbot at the Cwmavon Health Centre
“I have been a GP for 34 years in a deprived area in Swansea Bay, maintained by the University Health Board (UHB) of South Wales. When I was asked if I would head up the IRIS Pilot in my area, I knew it was going to be a great project. Firstly, I was aware of Domestic Abuse (DA), but I did not know how prevalent it was or how it affected all the socio-economic and ethnic and minority groups I was seeing. I was also unaware of how GPs, and their medical and reception teams were so well placed to help often desperate women get the support they needed. IRIS is a special intervention as it teaches whole practice teams the skills to recognise, and how to ask and get help for DA from a dedicated support worker affiliated to the practice. In the 3 years we have delivered the training, we have seen a surge in referrals for DA support. It has reduced consultation rates in practice but, best of all, I know the referred service users are getting the help they really need. It makes you feel good about being a GP again.”
Operations Manager & Manchester Women’s Aid Health Lead – IRIS Manchester, IRIS Safe in Salford, MiDASS and ADViSE
“The Pankhurst Centre Manchester Women’s Aid (PTMWA) feels privileged to be a partner with IRISi. As the largest provider of health services since 2012, IRIS Manchester, IRIS Salford and ADViSE, we have been working in partnership with IRISi and their proven track record in delivering successful evidence-based DA interventions in primary care, which has been instrumental to our service delivery. Our joint mission is to improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence through health and specialist services working together, therefore, we are building a network of specialist partners who share our vision and have the drive to create sustainable change. IRISi has been an immense support to us, and we look forward to continuing working together.”
IRIS Advocate Educator at Black Country Women’s Aid
“IRIS is fantastic because it builds a bridge between the effects of DA and the impact of that on a patient’s health. IRIS helps all of the staff in a GP practice to be better at recognising DA, getting help for their patients, and being able to direct NHS resources effectively. We can help the patient deals with the root cause and support them to have improved safety, health, and wellbeing. It’s amazing to see the difference made in someone’s life”.
Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)
“London’s Violence Reduction Unit is proud to support the work of IRISi. We recognise its innovative and established training programme that equips professionals working to support those when they need it most. We appreciate the passion and partnerships IRISi creates in its mission. And most importantly, we value its support of survivors and the long-lasting transformational change it continues to make in vulnerable lives.”
Chair of the IRISi Board
“My relationship with IRISi started whilst I was at the Health Foundation working as a Programme Manager and later Head of Improvement Programmes, and I had the chance to see that they were doing something incredibly important. I was impressed by their practical and impactful approach to tackling Domestic Abuse (DA) through GP appointments, a touch point that most people will have, especially victims and survivors of DA, to make sure that they can get the best support available. IRISi is still in the early stages of its organisational journey and growth. I think this creates space to think, where appropriate and necessary, on how to professionalise and bring in new processes and procedures whilst keeping the heart of IRISi as a social-based organisation”.
“This has been a liberating journey, from wondering what I had experienced after talking with my clinician to fully understanding the type of abuse that I had been experiencing for YEARS. This has been the best service.”