IRISi and the Gaia Centre (run by Refuge) will be co-delivering the IRIS Programme to general practices in the London Borough of Lambeth from April 2022 onwards. The area had implemented the initiative before, but the work had to be interrupted when the funding ended. Now, Lambeth Council’s Children’s Commissioning Team together with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have set up a Health and Violence Against Women and Girls Working Group and, subsequently, have secured three years of funding for IRIS.
Rose Parker, Head of Commissioning at the council, explains why it is so important to bring a domestic abuse (DA) training programme to clinicians and access to specialist advocacy to patients to Lambeth: “We believe that the IRIS programme will create a consistent approach to responding to domestic abuse and that the length of funding will enable us to embed best practice across the borough.”
Read the full interview below.
How and when did you first learn about the IRIS programme?
Rose Parker: I first heard about the IRIS programme when I was working for the national domestic abuse charity Refuge, over ten years ago. I’ve subsequently worked in areas that have had IRIS, including Lambeth previously, and was keen that we secure further funding as Primary Care (healthcare provided in the community for people, by healthcare professionals such as GPs) is such a vital part of the work to tackle domestic abuse.
Why and how do you believe that the IRIS programme will help you to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse in Lambeth?
Rose Parker: We know that domestic abuse is best tackled through a multi-agency coordinated community response. Primary Care is an essential component of this approach as the one service that almost all victims and survivors, children and perpetrators of domestic abuse will contact. Lambeth GPs have told us about all the work they’re already doing to safeguard victims and survivors and how we can improve responses to domestic abuse in Primary Care. Alongside IRIS and the new Advocate Educators who will be based in our commissioned VAWG service, the Gaia Centre, we are also introducing a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Liaison Nurse to strengthen information sharing between our multi-agency panel for high-risk victims and survivors of domestic abuse (MARAC) and Primary Care. We believe that the IRIS programme will create a consistent approach to domestic abuse and that the length of funding will enable us to embed best practices across the borough.
How was the process to obtain funding for the IRIS programme? What were the obstacles and enablers in this process?
Rose Parker: Lambeth previously had an IRIS programme but the funding ended a few years ago and it had been difficult to source an alternative. We have recently launched our new partnership VAWG Strategy 2021-27 and the development of this highlighted the gaps in provision and the need to strengthen our response to domestic abuse in Primary Care. I work in Lambeth Council’s Children’s Commissioning Team and we’re integrated with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) so this enabled us to work closely to identify needs and options. We set up a Health and VAWG Working Group that has brought together partners from across the health economy, CCG and Council to work in partnership to develop the business case for funding. We presented this to the CCG who agreed to three years of funding for IRIS and the MARAC Liaison Nurse which is fantastic as it provides stability and the time to really embed learning and best practice.
For how long have you been wanting to bring the IRIS programme to Lambeth? What are your expectations?
Rose Parker: We have wanted to reinstate this programme to Lambeth since funding ended in 2016 so are excited that it is now launching and that this time the Advocate Educators are employed by our local VAWG support service and that we’ll also have the MARAC Liaison Nurse project. This will ensure a coordinated response for all victims and survivors and that they have access to additional interventions. We expect to see strengthened engagement between Primary Care and our specialist services, greater confidence in responding to victims and survivors and their children, and increased numbers of those accessing support. We have Clinical Leads who are GPs practising in Lambeth and will work closely with the Advocate Educators and offer peer support and promotion to practices. The fact that we have such a long funding period will really allow us time to create sustainable improvements.
IRISi and Social Franchising
IRISi is expanding the IRIS Network using the concept of social franchising. Social franchising is when an organisation (IRISi) packages up a proven model (the IRIS Programme) and provides carefully recruited partners (the IRIS Partners that form the IRIS Network) with the training and ongoing support they need to implement the programme and replicate the social impact.
IRISi is inviting new IRIS Partners to work with us to deliver the IRIS Programme. We are seeking specialist DVA/VAWG/GBV organisations that share our vision and values. Our Partner Prospectus, aimed at Chief Executives and service managers who are interested in delivering the IRIS Programme, includes information about the need for the IRIS Programme, the IRIS model and the difference that it makes, what we ask for from IRIS Partners and what we provide in return. It also explains the next steps for those who are interested in becoming IRIS Partners.
A prospectus is also available for commissioners who are interested in commissioning the IRIS Programme in their area, providing a concise overview of commissioning the IRIS Programme within the social franchise framework.
If you are a clinician or a commissioner and you believe the IRIS Programme can benefit your primary care response to Domestic Violence and Abuse, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.