The IRISi team welcomes My Sisters Place, our new social franchise partner organisation. Together, we will be delivering the IRIS Programme to general practices in Middlesbrough starting in January 2021. While this work gets underway, Chief Officer at My Sisters Place, Michelle O’Rourke, explains why it is so important to bring a Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) training programme for clinicians and access to specialist advocacy for patients to the local area.
How or when did you first learn about the IRIS programme?
My Sisters Place first learned about IRIS back in 2014 and we were really excited by the prospect of engaging in a meaningful way with GPs and in health settings.
Why and how do you believe that the IRIS programme will help you to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse?
Middlesbrough has a high level of need with regards to health outcomes, poverty, and life expectancy. Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England average (Public Health JSNA 2015). Cleveland Police report the second highest incident rate in the country (by force area) with Middlesbrough being the area of greatest need (JSNA 2017) and domestic violence the single highest cause of homelessness in the area. Domestic violence is present in over 85% of child protection cases.
My Sisters Place receives over 50% of our referrals from the police and often risk is assessed as High with referrals being made into MARAC where early opportunities to ask the question and identify abuse could have supported women into specialist services at a much earlier opportunity. Lessons have been learned locally from domestic homicide reviews and we believe IRIS provides a response which would enable us to see a step-change in the way health settings respond to domestic abuse providing a trauma-informed response at the earliest opportunity.
During the national lockdown in March, it became apparent that GPs and colleagues from health care settings in regular contact with women were becoming more alert to and concerned for women within the home. We feel that during this time projects such as IRIS are key to ensuring there is clear messaging and good enquiry with regards to domestic abuse.
How was the process to obtain funding for the IRIS programme? What were the obstacles and enablers in the process?
We were fortunate to be funded via the Big Night In fund via Women’s Aid to progress the IRIS project and received support from a range of partners within the Community Safety Partnership. The partnership recognised the need to respond to identified gaps, improve early intervention, and join up the health and criminal justice responses to achieve better outcomes for victims. The recognition of the importance of this approach made the process of buy in for the project much simpler however the impact of COVID-19 and other demands on services and funders meant that there were challenges in matching the funds needed. The collective support of the partnership and grant funds to match this enabled us to come to together to find a way forward in establishing IRIS for Middlesbrough and we are looking forward to building those relationships as the project develops.
For how long have you been wanting to bring the IRIS programme to Middlesbrough? What are your expectations?
We have wanted to bring IRIS to Middlesbrough for some time and first looked to implement the programme in 2014 and again in 2017. Our expectations are perhaps changing with the ever-changing environment in which we are currently operating. We expect to improve partnership working with GP practices, increase access to support at the earliest opportunity by providing a clear pathway for GPs to refer to specialist services and increase knowledge and awareness within GP practices. This will increase the recognition of domestic violence as a health issue.
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. We have written a short Partner Prospectus aimed at Chief Executives and service managers who are interested in delivering the IRIS Programme. The IRIS Partner Prospectus 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, and information about next steps for those who are interested in becoming IRIS Partners.
A Commissioner Prospectus is also available for commissioners who are interested in commissioning the IRIS Programme in their area. The Commissioner Prospectus does not replace the IRIS Commissioning Guidance; it provides a concise overview of commissioning the IRIS Programme within the social franchise framework.
Please contact us for a copy of the IRIS Partner Prospectus or the IRIS Commissioner Prospectus.