In a stride towards creating a safer London for all, the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has taken one more important action to address Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse (D&SVA) within healthcare settings. Building on the success of the 7B Programme, which implemented IRIS in 7 different boroughs of London, the VRU has commissioned IRISi to manage grant funding and implement our two interventions, IRIS and ADViSE, in collaboration with various specialist organisations across London. This powerful partnership reflects a shared commitment to providing essential support for those affected by Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence, marking a pivotal moment in recognising and assisting individuals who often remain unheard and unsupported.
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), expressed the unit’s unwavering commitment to tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. She stated, “Our investment will provide vital support for healthcare practitioners to offer support for those affected by domestic abuse through targeted services. No one should suffer in silence, which is why this investment is so crucial as it will reach those who are not usually recognised or supported with the services they desperately need. Our partnership with the healthcare sector and domestic abuse specialists highlights that together we can prevent violence against women and girls.”
Medina Johnson, CEO at IRISi, sheds light on the relevance of bringing these two interventions to healthcare settings in London. She said, “Being entrusted by the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to partner with them and implement the IRIS and ADViSE programmes across London fills us with immense determination. At IRISi, we are deeply committed to empowering lives and transforming communities by addressing Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse (D&SVA). This partnership represents a significant milestone in our shared mission to expand support to more healthcare professionals, enabling them to confidently identify and respond to the signs of D&SVA. By providing a simple and effective referral pathway, we aim to offer a holistic and much-needed approach to victims and survivors. Moreover, embedding specialists within healthcare settings allows us to foster collaboration between healthcare professionals and organisations dedicated to tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. Together, with the support of the VRU and our dedicated partner organisations, we embark on a journey to build a safer and more inclusive London for all”.
IRIS: Empowering GPs and strengthening Primary Care response to Domestic Abuse
IRISi is at the forefront of pioneering interventions specifically designed for healthcare settings to enhance the identification and response to Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence. Our flagship programme, IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety), is a cost-effective evidence-based initiative focused on general practices, empowering them to provide adequate support to women who are victims and survivors of Domestic Abuse.
Now, thanks to the new funding from VRU, IRIS is being effectively delivered in partnership with esteemed organisations such as London Black Women’s Project, Aanchal, and Refuge. These collaborations are indeed the essential foundation for IRIS, as they play a vital role in bridging the gap and extending essential assistance to victims and survivors.
After joining one of the IRIS training sessions, Nickiesha Barnett, Women and Girls Programme Manager at VRU, said: “It was fantastic to have been involved in the IRISi intervention training event for providers. It was a huge success and a great introduction to the many different roles that sit within the IRISi GP service, as well as highlighting the wide variety of work that goes in to supporting victims and survivors of Domestic Abuse. The facilitators equally showcased interventions in GP practices, sexual health clinics and the training of healthcare visitors to better equip practitioners in recognising signs of domestic abuse at its earliest opportunity.”
Indeed, IRIS enables general practice teams to identify and support victims and survivors on their own terms, providing direct contact with specialist support. It comes as no surprise that Su Bhuhi, CEO at Aanchal Women’s Aid, expressed enthusiasm for delivering the programme in Redbridge. She said, “we know how difficult it is for healthcare professionals to effectively engage with patients to efficiently improve safe referrals. We are particularly excited to deliver IRIS, increasing GP and practice engagement, which will enable improved connections, and reducing gaps in response. Our aim is to identify patients experiencing Domestic Abuse to connect them with help at early stages and we know GPs are the first and safest first points of contact. We really hope Redbridge healthcare professionals are as enthusiastic as we are”.
Meril Eshun-Parker, Director at London Black Women’s Project, highlighted the significance of delivering IRIS in Newham, particularly given their expertise in reaching and supporting Black minoritised women. “London Black Women’s Project is a small ‘specialist by and for’ domestic abuse charity operating Pan-London, but with a focus in Newham and Haringey. In April we undertook joint training with another local partner from Redbridge and found it highly useful to be able to understand and deliver the programme in our area. We look forward to the delivery of the training and in being able to work with health to promote the eradication of domestic abuse locally for all residents, specifically women and girls, and to utilise our knowledge about Black minoritised women to improve and increase access and disclosure. We bring with us connections to specialist Black minoritised services and wider partnerships.”
According to Angie Airlie, Head of Development, Refuge is also looking forward to the opportunity to better embed responses to Domestic Abuse within GP practices in Kingston and Richmond: “Both boroughs have previously flagged the need for closer involvement of healthcare colleagues in their response to DA, and this is a theme that has been reflected in local Domestic Homicide Review recommendations,” she stated. For Jacqueline Messam, IRIS Service Manager at Refuge, the programme’s rapid and efficient rollout has already given reason to be optimistic. “We have started partnering with local professionals who will support with linking in with local GP services, ultimately ensuring that we maximize engagement and training. GP surgeries should see the benefits of being an IRIS trained practice for themselves and their patients. We are looking forward to a successful programme, creating awareness of the prevalence of DA in the local area and ensuring that support is accessible for those impacted.”
ADViSE: Empowering clinicians and strengthening sexual health clinical response to Domestic & Sexual Abuse and Violence
Alongside IRIS, the ADViSE programme has also been launched in collaboration with nia at Homerton Hospital/Homerton Trust and Advance at St. Mary’s Hospital/Imperial Trust. ADViSE (Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environments) is a programme that incorporates Domestic and Sexual Abuse specialists within sexual health environments. These specialists offer dedicated support to sexual health clinicians in identifying and responding to patients who may be affected by Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse. The programme also establishes a straightforward referral pathway to connect patients with specialist services for further assistance. The most significant advantage of ADViSE is its presence within sexual health clinics, which allows it to reach a more diverse population, such as LGBTQ+ people.
Caroline Dart, Senior Manager at VRU, acknowledges the vital role healthcare professionals, such as GPs and sexual health practitioners, play in the identification and early response to D&SVA. After taking part in one of the ADViSE training sessions, she said: “Healthcare staff see millions of patients every single day and have a unique opportunity to ensure that survivors understand their rights to get the support they need and deserve. We know that many women choose to confide in their GP before any other professional. IRIS and ADViSE equip clinicians with the training they need, as well as a direct referral pathway into specialist Domestic Abuse services so that patients can access ongoing support in their communities. The VRU is committed to tackling violence through prevention and early intervention, and IRISi brings the healthcare sector into this approach in partnership with the specialist Domestic Abuse sector.”
Together, building a safer London for all
In London’s quest to build a safer city for all, the VRU’s partnership with IRISi and its dedicated programmes, IRIS and ADViSE, serves as a beacon of hope and progress. IRIS and ADViSE have emerged as catalysts of support for victims and survivors of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence in London. By forging robust partnerships with healthcare settings, these programmes break the silence that too often shrouds victims and survivors. Through their commitment to prevention, early intervention, and comprehensive support, IRIS and ADViSE champion a safer London for all, ensuring survivors get the support they need on their journey.
Moreover, VRU’s passionate commitment to preventing Violence Against Women and Girls combined with IRISi’s innovative vocation should lead these programmes towards a future of compassion and inclusivity. As collaborations with esteemed specialist organisations continue, the resounding message remains clear – together, we can make a profound difference and create a city where everyone can thrive without fear. The journey has begun, and it promises to transform lives, laying the foundation for a safer London for all.