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We are thrilled to announce that we are working with MOPAC and the VRU to fund seven new London sites next year, bringing our total London sites to 17. This is a huge step for us at IRISi and we hope to start work with the new sites immediately.

Please see below for the full press release and direct any questions or media enquiries to allie.bailey@irisi.org


London’s Violence Reduction Unit invests £1m in boosting doctors’ skills in identifying and supporting victims of domestic violence

London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has today announced a new £1 million investment in training doctors and healthcare professionals to boost their abilities in identifying the signs of domestic violence and offering earlier help to victims. 

Specialist training for doctors and GPs is currently available in 10 boroughs. The new funding will expand the programme across 17 boroughs, providing two dedicated domestic violence advocates per borough, with the potential to support more than two million Londoners to access support and guidance. The programme has been developed by IRISi, a social enterprise which works to improve the response to gender-based violence in the health sector, along with partner organisations.

There is strong evidence of links between domestic violence and other forms of serious violent crime, with City Hall data showing that 13 per cent of serious youth violence victims are also victims of domestic violence, while a third of female serious youth violence victims were also victims of domestic violence and abuse. 

Research has demonstrated that young people who have grown up with violence in their lives are more likely to become a victim themselves in the future, or become someone who harms others. (1)

Today’s investment is a crucial part of the VRU’s work to deliver early interventions that break a cycle of violence and address the complex root causes behind violent crime.

Figures show that 80 per cent of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services and that these are often a victim’s first, or only, point of contact (2). Training for doctors and GPs will increase their skills and experience to be able to spot the signs of domestic violence earlier and help them better assess immediate risks and where to refer patients for further support. Women using GP surgeries in London where practitioners have already been trained are six times more likely to be referred to specialist support and to have had a conversation about domestic violence with their GP. Patients at these practices also report feeling safer and more about to cope, with many reporting that they visited their GP less frequently as a result (3). 

The VRU was set up by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in 2018 and brings together specialists from health, police, local government, probation and community organisations to tackle violent crime and its underlying causes. In its first year the VRU has invested in increasing youth workers in London’s hospitals, provided investment for schools to keep London’s most vulnerable young people fully engaged with their education and safe after school, as well as funding community projects that work to reduce knife crime and give young people positive opportunities.

Its initial impact has prompted the Home Office to invest a further £7m in London’s VRU in the next financial year, while the Mayor has increased his annual budget from £1.8m to £5m.

Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Incidences of domestic abuse are unacceptably high, and the victims need urgent help – to keep victims safe, and also because we also know that domestic violence can manifest to wider violence. That is why we are investing in the IRIS programme, as we know that in many cases speaking to a GP can be a victim’s first or only option for seeking help, and this way we can give healthcare professionals the tools needed to spot the signs of domestic violence at the earliest  possible opportunity. We are determined to challenge the view that violence is inevitable and demonstrate that it is preventable. The public-health approach we are leading in London is firmly rooted in investing in early interventions that can break the cycle of violence and give Londoners the support they need.”

Medina Johnson, Chief Executive of IRISi said: “Over the last decade, IRIS programmes have trained teams in over 1,000 general practice and directly supported over 15,500 women. We train doctors and nurses to be professionally curious and to think about domestic violence when they are speaking with, meeting with and consulting with a patient. We train them to think about questions like ‘might the patient I am with be affected by domestic violence and abuse?’ Women tell us repeatedly that they want to be asked about what is going on for them at home and why their health is poor. They are at best, puzzled when nobody does and, at worst, left feeling alone, hopeless and unworthy of help. This investment to increase the programme across seven additional boroughs in London will mean that direct, specialist support will be accessible to many more people because many more clinicians will be better equipped to ask about DVA and refer on.”

An IRIS service user, said: “I’m grateful that the GP referred me.  She listened and was really supportive.  I think it’s brilliant for anyone that needs that support as you do feel you’re isolated.  To know that you’re not alone and you’re not the only one going through it, going through a dark tunnel is a massive relief and you know there’s a light at the end.” 

Kirsten Shirke, GP, who has taken part in the IRIS programme and training, said: “I’ve worked as a GP in Tower Hamlets for over 17 years, and over the years have supported many patients who have experienced domestic abuse. These have been some of the most vulnerable and traumatised patients I have worked with. Many of the women have experienced extreme levels of controlling behaviour, and are fearful and isolated, sometimes literally imprisoned in the home, and seeing a GP or other primary care worker may be the only opportunity they have to speak in confidence about their situation. For patients who do not speak English fluently, opportunities to seek help may be even more limited.

“Having the IRIS project in Tower Hamlets revolutionised the way in which we were able to support patients experiencing domestic abuse. The training GP practice teams receive from the IRIS advocate improves understanding of how to identify patients who may be experiencing abuse, how to effectively and sensitively ask questions about domestic abuse, and how to support patients if they disclose abuse. The IRIS advocate is available as a one stop referral point for all patients experiencing domestic abuse. They are already known to the practice team through the training they have provided, and contact patients rapidly following a referral. They arrange to meet the patient in the GP practice, a setting familiar to the patient which is far less likely to arouse suspicion from other family members, and spend time talking to the patient about their concerns, and offering a wide range of practical and emotional support. They then give feedback on the outcome (with patient consent), which meant we could work closely and provide the best possible support to these patients.”


Notes to Editors:

The VRU HAS awarded £1m across two years  (2019/20 – 2020/21) for the delivery of the IRISi service across seven boroughs: Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Croydon, Ealing,  Hammersmith and Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Westminster.

The ten boroughs IRISi currently provide training in are Barnet, Bromley, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

The success of the programme will be measured in terms of the number of patient referrals and increased patient safety. GP practice teams will have increased awareness of domestic abuse and are able to recognise the signs of domestic abuse, ask patients about potential issues, respond to patients’ needed, and to refer patients to further services. Measures also include patients reporting improved quality of life, improved physical health, mental health and a reduction in cases of abuse.

This investment is working to help provide sustainable resources for organisations that work to tackle gender-based violence, to ensure that all victims are able to access support.

The VRU and MOPAC are working collaboratively to ensure services that support victims and survivors of domestic abuse and other types of gendered violence are available across London, as well as working to tackle the systemic issues victims of gender-based violence can face. This includes the Mayor’s £15m VAWG Fund and ongoing commissioned services aimed at supporting survivors and managing perpetrators. For information please visithttps://www.london.gov.uk/vawg


(1)   A Public Health Approach to Serious Youth Violence: Supporting Evidence: https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/a-public-health-approach-to-serious-youth-violence

(2)   Department of Health (2011) http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354/www.dh.gov.uk/en/MediaCentre/Pressreleasesarchive/DH_113837

(3)   http://www.irisdomesticviolence.org.uk/iris/publications/

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Please call the press office on 0207 983 4070 or email policing@london.gov.uk

For a PDF copy of this document please click here.




AVA is an expert, groundbreaking and independent charity working across the UK.

Their vision is a world without gender based violence and abuse. They aim to  inspire innovation and collaboration and encourage and enable direct service providers to help end gender based violence and abuse particularly against women and girls.AVA’s work is focused around those areas where they can make the best contribution to ending violence and abuse. They do this by making sure that survivors get the help and support they need in the here and now, through providing innovative training that has a proven direct impact on the professional practice of people supporting survivors of violence and abuse

developing a range of toolkits, e-learning and other material that supports professionals to provide effective and appropriate support to survivors of violence and abuse

using our influence and networks to ensure survivors voices are heard. We work closely with AVA in many areas including the Pathfinder project



SafeLives are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually. SafeLives are members of the Pathfinder consortium.



Imkaan is a UK-based, Black feminist organisation. We are the only national second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls which are defined in policy terms as Black and ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME). The organisation holds nearly two decades of experience of working around issues such as domestic violence, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ violence.

They work at local, national and international level, and in partnership with a range of organisations, to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls. Imkaan works with it’s members to represent the expertise and perspectives of frontline, specialist and dedicated Black and minoritised women’s organisations that work to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Imkaan delivers a unique package of support which includes: quality assurance; accredited training and peer education; sustainability support to frontline Black and minoritised organisations; and facilitation of space for community engagement and development. They are a part of the Pathfinder Consortium.


The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC
The University of Bristol CAPC

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.  It is part of Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching.

A dedicated team of researchers at the Centre work on domestic abuse projects and IRISi is a co-collaborator and partner on some of these projects including ReProvide, HERA and DRiDVA.

The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. The Health Foundation’s Exploring Social Franchising programme aims to generate a deeper understanding of the potential of social franchising models for scaling effective health and social care interventions within the NHS.

We are one of four project teams participating in the programme to develop a social franchise to enable the sustainable spread of our intervention, the IRIS Programme. We receive funding and support from the Health Foundation, including technical expertise on social franchising, and attend programme learning events. The Health Foundation has also commissioned a programme-wide evaluation to support understanding of the use of social franchising in the UK health and care system. We and our franchisees will support the evaluation through co-designing data collection requirements, providing access to data as requested, hosting site visits and attending learning events.



Standing Together Against Domestic Violence is a UK charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse. They bring local services together to keep people safe

Most public services weren’t designed with domestic abuse in mind, and they often struggle to keep people safe. Poor communication and gaps between services put survivors at risk.

STADV aim to end domestic abuse by changing the way that local services respond to it. They do this through an approach that they pioneered, called the Coordinated Community Response. The Coordinated Community Response brings services together to ensure local systems truly keep survivors safe, hold abusers to account, and prevent domestic abuse.

Their model of a coordinated local partnership to tackle and ultimately prevent domestic violence is now widely accepted as best practice. They are also a part of the Pathfinder consortium.


Spring Impact
Spring Impact
Spring Impact

Spring Impact is a not-for-profit social enterprise born out of the frustration of seeing social organisations constantly reinventing the wheel and wasting scarce resources. Spring Impact uses a combination of tested commercial and social principles and extensive practical expertise to support organisations to identify, design and implement the right social replication model to scale their social impact.

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