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Provided by IRISi, the IRIS Programme is a specialist domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training, support and referral programme for General Practices that has been delivered thanks to funding from the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in 7 boroughs in London since January 2020. The initiative is one of many supported by the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime in London (MOPAC). Set up in 2019, the VRU was originally established to take a different approach towards tackling violence, including DVA. Using IRISi’s expertise and know-how in this field, the VRU commissioned the organisation to deliver a 12-month programme divided into 2 phases: the first designed areas to receive the IRIS programme were Tower Hamlets, Croydon, and Barking and Dagenham; then, the initiative also reached Brent, Ealing, Westminster, and Hammersmith and Fulham in its second and final phase.  As always, the IRIS programme is delivered in partnership with local, specialist DVA organisations.

The first three sites were launched just before the first lockdown, which brought up several challenges, especially because the programme had to be immediately adapted from face to face to online training, advocacy and support. The commissioning was originally scheduled to finish on 31st of March 2021, but after all the difficulties imposed by COVID-19, the VRU agreed to extend the delivery timeframe and budget to allow the finish to be by 31st March 2022, with final reports and evaluation by June 2022.

Due to the commitment and ongoing support from the VRU, we are able to continue delivery of the IRIS Programme for a few more months and we are hoping that we can increase the number of identification and referrals into the service whilst there is funding and AEs in post.  We are working hard with local partners to ensure re-commissioning happens at all 7 sites so that the referral pathways remain open to all patients beyond the VRU funding”, explains Dr Shim Vereker, Contracts and Programme manager at VRU sites.

Only one quarter away from finishing the partnership with the VRU, we asked the IRIS Advocate Educators and the Clinical Leads from Tower Hamlets, Croydon, Barking and Dagenham to share their experiences with the IRIS Programme up until now. These are their words!

[Advocate Educators]

“As an AE I empathised with the health care professionals, as the pandemic put additional pressures and responsibilities on an already busy healthcare system, during a very challenging time. We worked with an open mind, provided more flexibility, and offered to take referrals from all GP Practices to ensure all survivors were being supported during this challenging time. (…) We were in touch with GPs via email and telephone for advice and exchange of professional insights, reminding them of safeguarding, giving our perspectives for cases and updating them about referrals. A few GPs in the IRIS trainings fed back that AEs had done good work in some difficult cases.  (…) Occasionally during the pandemic, I was able to meet with Clinicians as well as service users at the GP practices. This is a good way to connect and keep our presence visible.”

“It has been a challenge to build a relationship with clinicians. Not only because of the lack of the possibility to visit the surgeries and being able to just make a conversation with the surgeries staff but also because, since the pandemic started, all clinical and non-clinical staff have been struggling to find the time to receive training. However, it has been really important to appreciate that during these hard times all surgeries that have signed with the programme so far, have made the time to increase their awareness in DVA. They play a vital role for survivors, and it is essential to promote surgeries as a safe space to talk and look for help if in a situation of DVA. I feel grateful for those surgeries I have trained and those women we have been able to help so far. The beginning of the programme was really uncertain because of all the fluctuations society has suffered since the first lockdown, but I feel proud of these achievements and being able to work with the other Advocate Educator to make the best we can to support and help women.”

“I’ve really enjoyed supporting and learning from the women who have engaged with the IRIS service, which is really what it’s all about! Coming alongside them in their journeys, they really become advocates for themselves. Trust and confidence are so important when supporting clinicians to develop their understanding of domestic violence and abuse in their patients (and even colleagues). Asking practices to keep DVA on their agenda, amongst the multiple challenges and conditions they have been managing during a pandemic, has not been an easy task; but it is one that many have risen to! I have really appreciated engaging with and responding to the different on-the-ground experiences of our clinicians and practice staff.”

[Clinical Leads]

“IRIS was set up completely virtually in B&D as the programme commenced right at the start of our COVID pandemic, in total lockdown. The response of our GP colleagues has been heartening and all attendees have feedback on how valuable and useful the training was for them. It is clear that an IRIS activated area provides a really robust primary care friendly resource for GP practices to use and empowers clinicians to ask the questions, knowing there is someone.  The two most empowering take-home messages I have been able to assure GPs about in raising the possibility of DVA during a consultation are:

• ‘You don’t ask, you don’t get’?  – Always ask the question.

• Asking the question does not lengthen the consultation to beyond manageable levels and expected 10 minute parameters which is often a concern about opening Pandora’s box and the time it will take clinicians to handle.

Dr Richard Burack

“Many victims of domestic violence mention feeling increasingly depressed and anxious especially after the repeated lockdowns and closures during the pandemic. As GPs we saw a spike in cases of domestic violence increasing health inequalities locally and often the clinical response is reported to be inadequate. I attended the IRIS training and found it really helpful as it supported me in making clinical enquiries and also evoked my professional curiosity and after training you would not feel as if you were opening a can of worms because the training will increase your confidence about asking the questions and how to respond and record. I found it so transformative I went on to become a Clinical Lead to make a difference and train others on how to enquire about Domestic Violence appropriately by safely asking, adequately and responding.”

Dr Farah Bede

[VRU Sites – Phase 01]

  • Launch: March 2020.
  • Delivery start date: April 2020.
  • Partner agencies: Solace Women’s Aid for Tower Hamlets, BCWA and FJC in partnership for Croydon, nia for Barking and Dagenham.
  • Number of Practices fully trained*: 42.
  • Number of Patients referred into IRIS service*: 411.

*[data from April 2020 – September 2021]


IRIS is a specialist domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training, support and referral programme for General Practices that has been positively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.

IRIS is a collaboration between primary care and third sector organisations specialising in DVA.  Core areas of the programme include ongoing training, education and consultancy for the clinical team and administrative staff, care pathways for primary health care practitioners and an enhanced referral pathway to specialist domestic violence services for patients with experience of DVA.

Click here to find out more about the programme.


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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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