The IRISi team welcomes DASU, our new partner organisation. Together, we have been delivering the IRIS Programme to general practices in Denbighshire from January 2022 – which means that the intervention has now been implemented across almost all Wales.
Rhiannon Edwards, the local Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Advisor, explains why it is so important to bring a Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) training programme to clinicians and access to specialist advocacy to patients to the local area: “We have wanted to bring this programme to North Wales for at least the last 5 years. We expect to see greater engagement between GP practices and the specialist services, smoother and more efficient referral pathways, better trained and better-informed GPs and practice staff, but above all, we want to see victims of domestic abuse accessing the most appropriate support at the earliest time possible”.
According to Rhian Lewis, Service Manager at DASU, it became urgent to bring a new approach to tackle DVA in the area due to the pandemic: “DASU have seen an increase of 40% in referrals (including high-risk referrals) since COVID. We have seen an increase in the length of support needed and an increase in the complexity of the needs of our clients. Referrals from primary care have always been quite low to our services and this will give us an opportunity to intervene earlier as well as supplying a wraparound suite of services for our clients in Denbighshire”.
Read the full interview below.
How and when did you first learn about the IRIS programme?
Rhiannon Edwards: I first heard about the IRIS programme at a Welsh Women’s Aid conference, at which we had a presentation about the South Wales IRIS pilot, and it was really informative. From then on, I have been actively trying to gain support and source funding for something similar in North Wales.
Why and how do you believe that the IRIS programme will help you to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse in Denbighshire?
Rhiannon Edwards: We know IRIS will have a massive impact on the response to domestic abuse in Denbighshire, just from talking to the GP practices and hearing about their experiences of working with patients. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of high-risk victims requesting support has greatly increased, partly due to the fact that they have not been able to come forward during the various lockdowns. However, we foresee large numbers of women for whom the pandemic has been a trigger and after having experienced controlling relationships for a long time, they are now at breaking point. It may be that they are experiencing mental and physical reactions to the increased stress and fear and a visit to the GP can feel like one of the only places of safety.
How was the process to obtain funding for the IRIS programme? What were the obstacles and enablers in this process?
Rhiannon Edwards: This has been an ongoing and often frustrating process, which is still only partially resolved. After trying to source funding through a variety of funding pathways and from various partner organisations, DASU applied to the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPPC) for funding from the Home Office and secured enough for an initial pilot. This is fantastic and we can use the pilot period to prove the concept to local and regional partners, with a view to making it more sustainable and rolling it out across the region.
Rhian Lewis: I’d also like to add that DASU have also sourced additional funding to extend the pilot through a “CRISIS UK” grant to give us additional time as proof of concept.
For how long have you been wanting to bring the IRIS programme to Denbighshire? What are your expectations?
Rhiannon Edwards: We have wanted to bring this programme to North Wales for at least the last 5 years. We expect to see greater engagement between GP practices and the specialist services, smoother and more efficient referral pathways, better trained and better-informed GPs and practice staff, but above all, we want to see victims of domestic abuse accessing the most appropriate support at the earliest time possible.
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 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 email@example.com.