Over the last few years, the IRIS Programme has considerably expanded across Wales. In 2021, one more Welsh area started delivering the initiative to their local General Practice teams: since February, 11 practices in Bridgend have been trained and are now ready to identify and refer women who are affected by Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA).
The IRIS Programme has been implemented in partnership with Safer Merthyr Tydfil (SMT). Vanesa Ghigi, the Advocate Educator working across Bridgend, explains why the initiative is so powerful: “In my experience, women that have never contacted the police or a local DVA Agency due to fear, guilt, shame, might feel they can share their experiences safely with their GP, many of whom would only do so if prompted through enquiry by the GP”. Read the full interview with Vanesa below!
How did you first get the IRIS programme to Bridgend?
SMT has been running the IRIS programme in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff since 2015 and we have received a total of 845 referrals from both of these areas. Julie Beck, Deputy CEO for SMT, had been in discussion with colleagues at Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board with regards to the expansion of the IRIS programme into Bridgend and we officially started delivering training and supporting patients in February 2021.
How has the IRIS programme helped you to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse in Bridgend?
I have worked in various roles supporting women affected by DVA and I believe IRIS is able to support women that wouldn’t have sought help through the usual channels. In my experience, women that have never contacted the police or a local DVA Agency due to fear, guilt, shame, might feel they can share their experiences safely with their GP, many of whom would only do so if prompted through enquiry by the GP. I believe that by reaching out to survivors through GPs and practice clinicians, IRIS is able to help a distinct cohort of women that wouldn’t otherwise have received any support.
How was your experience in delivering the IRIS programme until now?
We have been working hard to get IRIS embedded in all General Practices in Bridgend. Our main focus for this first year has been to train all practices and to get GPs familiar with the IRIS programme and start referring patients. We have received some great feedback from all trained practices, most of whom have referred patients for support. It has been more challenging delivering training online. Face to face training can be more interactive and engaging and also allows me to visit the practices and catch up with clinicians and staff whilst there to offer support. However, there are definitely pros and cons for both online and face to face training for myself and clinicians.
What are the most challenging and satisfactory aspects of delivering the IRIS programme for you?
One of the best parts of working in the IRIS programme is to see the number of referrals increase as we train more and more practices and clinicians. It is clear that clinicians are asking their patients about DVA and offering support, which makes a huge difference to the safety and wellbeing of survivors and children. It is really satisfying to see that this is happening as a result of the training we offer and the partnership work between clinicians and IRIS. The direct work we do with women can be very challenging but is also extremely rewarding. Some of the biggest challenges we are currently facing are around engaging with some General Practices that are small and short of staff, which means they do not have the time or resources to commit to IRIS at this stage. We have plans in place to offer support with the hope that Bridgend practices will be fully IRIS aware very soon.
*In collaboration with Clinical Lead for Bridgend, Dr Laura Wass.
Site of the Month: Bridgend
- Launch date: February 2021.
- Specialist Partner organisation: Safer Merthyr Tydfil.
- Practices trained: 11 practices trained to date.
- Women referred by year: 19 referrals received since February 21.