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SOUTH WALES Police gets a call every 15 minutes about domestic violence or abuse.

This was the revelation made by police and crime commissioner Alun Michael at the latest police and crime panel in Merthyr Tydfil.

The figure equates to 93 calls every day and about a third of all violent crime recorded in South Wales is related to domestic violence or abuse.

Mr Michael was speaking during a discussion on the Identification to Improve Safety (IRIS) scheme in South Wales which sees GPs trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse.

It has been running in the South Wales Police area since January 2015, with Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan the first to put it in place and has now reached more than 1,000 people since spreading to Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) and Merthyr Tydfil.

It trains GPs and practice staff to spot the signs of domestic violence or abuse through a series of questions.

It’s an award-winning project which was developed at Bristol University and has been initially funded by South Wales Police but local health boards are starting to contribute too.

Mr Michael said: “It certainly is a success story.”

He told the panel it has been rolled out in 36 areas across the UK but only on a large scale in South Wales and Greater Manchester.

Mr Michael said there is a very strong evidence base for the approach and it has received approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

He said: “South Wales Police receives a phone call every 15 minutes about domestic violence or abuse. That’s 93 calls a day.

“A third of all violent crimes are related to domestic violence and abuse.”

He said between 2011 and 2014 in Cardiff and the Vale, there were just seven referrals from GPs around domestic abuse but that jumped massively to 543 between January 2015 and February 2019.

In RCT and Merthyr, where the scheme started in January 2016, there have now been over 500 referrals where previously there had not been any.

And now Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board is planning to continue funding it until 2021 with plans to roll it out to Bridgend, which has recently become part of the health board.

Swansea Bay Health Board (formerly ABMU) is also considering rolling out the scheme.

Mr Michael said: “There has been a surprising number of referrals from affluent areas. It is not just poor areas affected.”

He also revealed 12% of those referred were aged over 60 with the oldest person being aged 89.

Mr Michael added that 68% of people were coming forward for the first time and 60% had children in the homes with 79% of those referred suffering from mental health issues.

He said: “There is a challenge in terms of funding but I am optimistic because we know it is highly efficient and cost effective which will help to save people from violence they are experiencing.

“We want to make it everyone’s business. It has been led by the police but health boards have recognised the value and have picked up the costs going forward.”

Mr Michael said he hopes it means they can intervene earlier and that he sees it as the essence of his role as police and crime commissioner to bring things like this forward.

Councillor Peter Rees from Neath Port Talbot highlighted that the report doesn’t mention men and that there is an issue on this front because they haven’t got a male refuge.

Mr Michael said women make up by the far the highest proportion of victims but questions had been designed so they could equally apply to men.

He said: “It is primarily women but not exclusively. The problem is much bigger with women in terms of the degree of violence.”

Councillor Christine Richards of Swansea said: “It is excellent news that this is going on. It has got my absolute support.”

On the subject of GP training, she suggested that it may go even further to include the people who train the GPs in the first place.

“We should be training all GPs. It should be business as usual in the training of all our GPs.”

Mr Michael said: “The impetus from Bristol is to have this as a basic throughout the health service. The training is for GP staff as well as GPs themselves.”

Councillor Rhys Lewis of Rhondda Cynon Taf said he welcomes the scheme and to get to 1,000 referrals is something that should be celebrated and is a real positive.

He said: “It is pleasing that the police have led the culture change. Has there been a degree of resistance and how do we overcome that?”

But Mr Michael said he had been surprised at the level of positive engagement throughout.

Councillor Sherelle Jago of Merthyr Tydfil said early identification is fantastic but this is just a first step.

She raised concerns about the high percentage of cases where children are in the home and also about the amount of cases where no further action is taken.

She called for there to be a more joined up approach so that people are engaged with.

Melvin Jehu, the vice chair of the panel who was standing in as chair, said: “Long may the work of IRIS continue. No one can deny the difference the project is making in our communities. I 100% support it.”

Photo: Police HQ, Google Maps

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