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Supporting Staff to have Courageous Conversations

To provide timely support and advice to victims of domestic violence within the acute hospitals by developing a training and support app for staff.

Read comments 13
  • Proposal
  • 2022

Meet the team


  • Florence Fegan
  • Caoilfhionn Hardy
  • Helen Cranney

What is the challenge your project is going to address and how does it connect to the theme?

Eighty percent of women in abusive relationships seek help from health services; these are often a woman’s first, or only, point of contact (Department of Health). Within acute hospitals, Domestic Abuse (DA) identification was significantly limited and those identified did not receive a timely response. Victims of DA themselves reported a perceived lack of understanding around DA by health professionals, subsequently resulting in a lack of confidence to make a disclosure.

To address this challenge, SHSCT will be partnering with Women’s Aid and Local Policing Community Safety Partnership. Since the implementation of the initial pilot, DASS has received 111 service user referrals and has trained 628 frontline staff.

To date training has required attendance in real time, excluding out of hours staff (OOH), a challenge identified in year 1 evaluation, with over 50% of referrals OOH. Therefore, digital content is paramount, ensuring equal access to learning, translating DA awareness into DASS referrals.

What does your project aim to achieve?

Aim: Increase the number of women accessing face-to-face DASS support at point of crisis.


1.    Using the current SHSCT connect app to design and deliver digital training content, enhancing equal access to training across multi-disciplinary professionals, targeting OOH staff.

2.    Create a digital space to allow staff enquiries directly to the DASS worker. As well as providing a suite of easily accessible resources, building confidence and awareness around recognising and responding to DA.

3.    Increase number of DASS referrals and subsequent outreach community referrals.

4.    To create an OOH DASS service (2 Workers) to be able to respond in a timely manner to the additional OOH referrals.

Intended beneficiaries’ improvements:

Staff- Improve skills and knowledge to undertake courageous conversations around DA

Patients – Increase the immediate and long-term safety of women and children.

As a result, this service will aim to reduce health inequalities by adapting a holistic approach to health care.

How will the project be delivered?

This pilot has been successfully running for 2 years and the data to date demonstrates the need for the extension of an OOH service.  It was identified that training in real time creates a barrier for over stretched staff accessing training, with particular focus on OOH as DASS operates mon-fri 9-5pm.

The project will use the established SHSCT connect app to ensure easy access to training resources. DASS will access support from IT and communication professionals to deliver high level engaging content, ensuring a memorable positive learning experience.

This project will increase available DASS support across acute services, enhancing collaborative working, risk assessing, safety planning & safeguarding.

Training and service user evaluations, DASS and community out-reach referrals and improved response time to patients will measure the impact of the project.

DA costs the NHS 2.3 billion/ yr, by implementing DASS, we are delivering a high value service through early intervention.

How is your project going to share learning?

The project will share learning by developing this innovative project model locally, regionally and nationally through the Q community by allowing others to follow DASS journey and progress. This pilot has already received requests from other trust areas in NI and the Department of health leads in order to explore the potential of rolling this model out regionally. The DASS pilot has proven to be influential in the policy planning around DA and is part of the call to view for the VAWG (violence against women and girls) and stalking strategies for NI. This pilot may also have positive implications for research around the impact of domestic abuse and health inequalities in NI and thus will influence and encourage the expansion of other Q community projects.

How you can contribute

  • Are there similar initiatives we can learn from?
  • We would value your comments?
  • We are open to any suggestions Q Members may have and would value your views on our project
  • Critique is always welcome

Plan timeline

19 Sep 2022 Formal Launch of Project Exploring various platforms for app
26 Sep 2022 Engage stakeholders Maternity, ED, Acute, NIAS & PSNI
10 Oct 2022 Finalise App requirements based on Stakeholder requirements
7 Nov 2022 Design of module to include, updates and data metrics
21 Nov 2022 Employ Out of Hours DASS Support Workers
19 Dec 2022 Testing of new app as pilot
9 Jan 2023 Changes identified and refinements made
5 Feb 2023 Implementation and roll out
6 Feb 2023 Trust wide communication and awareness campaign
3 Apr 2023 Evaluation phase and review. Sharing of Learning


  1. Guest

    Flo Fegan 3 months ago

    I am the Joint Project Lead on this Pilot along with Manager WAAD .

    We have just completed Yr 1 evaluation , which has  evidenced the  impact and outcomes for these women and their children  who have accessed the service .

    Prior to this pilot  the Acute services had not referred any women to Women's Aid services , with the Dass worker , a high proportionate of the women engage  and accept onward referrals to  Women's Aid  services .

    On review of the times that the women attend ED Departments approx 50 per cent attend between hrs 12mn-6am , so  extending the service to include these hours will  be critically to optimize the window of opportunity for immediate face to face support , also ensuring all our MDT staff have easy access to training and resources  via an App  will build on our current foundation training  face to face training , as we need all MDT professionals working collaboratively together  to  identify  these vulnerable women and refer on  to access the service

  2. Guest

    Debbie Murnin 3 months ago

    I am the Clinical Educator in the Emergency Department in Daisy Hill Hospital. DASS is an amazing service providing essential support for these women presenting to a very busy and somewhat chaotic environment. Caoilfhionn Hardy has been facilitating training for all our staff within the department. Undoubtedly this has increased awareness and knowledge on how to identify and easily refer ladies who experience Domestic Abuse. DASS most definitely provides a safety net for these women, which is essential in every Emergency Department Setting.

  3. Guest

    Jan Winton 3 months ago

    I am the IRIS Advocate Educator for the NMD area working in a similar role to the DASS worker in General Practice providing training to GP's and Clinicians in Primary Care around domestic and sexual abuse, acting as a referral point and providing direct support to patients.

    The DASS project is a vital service for patients to access the specialist support at crisis point which has life saving outcomes for the patient and their children.  It is a fundamental service in the health service which must continue as domestic abuse is a health issue and being to provide a more holistic support approach to patients in health services is something that not only will benefit the patient but the health sector.  Ideal outcomes, with intervention from DASS, would be a reduced need for health services as support to keep safe and move forward from abuse has been given at the critical point.  It really is life saving work and must continue and be offered to hospitals within the Trust area.

  4. Guest

    Aisling Gillespie 3 months ago

    As partners supporting the DASS pilot we believe this service is vital to assist staff responding to immediate crisis during the out of hours period with the development of resources for staff via an App. This will enable a direct referral pathway supporting both patients and their families and improve skills and knowledge of staff to undertake courageous conversations around DA



  5. Guest

    Lyndsey Wilson 3 months ago

    I am a Hospital Social Worker in the Emergency Department in Craigavon and have seen the great asset that the DASS service has offered to women affected by domestic violence. The service can offer immediate and long term support in increasing the safety of women and children, as well as training to professionals in the hospital setting to assist them in identifying and supporting people who could be experiencing DV.
    Currently the service is available Monday-Friday, 9-5pm, however numerous individuals are attending ED outside of these times and cannot currently access the DASS support whilst in the safe space of the hospital setting, and may not feel that they can speak with anyone once they are back in the home setting. Being able to support women in their time of need with the appropriate advise would be invaluable, and has the potential to significantly change lives.

  6. Guest

    Laura Millar 3 months ago

    I am a Social Worker in Craigavon Area Hospital and at any time I can come into contact with a patient experiencing domestic abuse. It is such a reassurance to be able to call on the expertise of the DASS worker to ensure the best possible support is provided to our patients experiencing domestic abuse. It is an invaluable service!

  7. Guest

    CLARE MCCONVILLE 3 months ago

    I manage Triage for Women's Aid Armaghdown and Caoilfhionn Hardy refers women to me following her having made initial contact with them. Her referrals are always appropriate providing vital information for me to be able to Risk Assess. It is reassuring to know that these woman are not being 'missed' within the system.

  8. Guest

    Jane Parkinson 3 months ago

    I am a social worker in Craigavon Area Hospital and cover childcare. I have received the DASS Training and have found it to be invaluable when working with ladies, particularly within maternity services. I have also noticed an increase in the number of referrals we are receiving in regards to domestic violence from staff within the acute setting as well as from community midwives. It is evident from the referrals and from speaking with staff, that the DASS training as increased their knowledge and confidence when asking about domestic violence.

    It is also invaluable having our DASS worker onsite as she is able to respond immediately to referrals once they are received and offer support and advice to women when they are in crisis. Having an OOH DASS Service would be extremely beneficial to the acute setting, given that it is a 24/7 service and a large proportion of our referrals are received after 5pm. Having out of hours support for staff 24/7 would be extremely beneficial, to ensure they feel supported and confident when dealing with this sensitive issue.

    Excellent service



  9. Guest

    Lucy Daly 3 months ago

    The DA service in the local hospitals has seen an increase in referrals coming into the local Women's Aid support services and women and families therefore receiving support in a timely manner and this has increased their levels of safety. This service has been great for women as it has been capturing high risk referrals presenting at the hospital which otherwise may have not been captured.

    It would be fantastic to roll this out between both hospital sites within the southern trust so the service is more widely available and this referral pathway is available to more women.

    DA worker with Women's Aid ArmaghDown

  10. Guest

    Aileen Crawley 3 months ago

    I am a Social Worker within the Emergency Department in Craigavon Area Hospital. DASS is an amazing service that has enhanced staff learning and knowledge around supporting woman experiencing domestic abuse. DASS provides essential one to one support for women experiencing domestic abuse.  Many referrals are received out of hours and immediate response would prove invaluable and increase the safety of the woman.

  11. Guest

    Anne Marie Harvey 3 months, 1 week ago

    I have received DASS training facilitated by Caoilfhionn Hardy. I have found it very valuable for staff in clinical roles within community settings, enhancing their knowledge and confidence in identifying and supporting  victims of domestic abuse. I learned about some supports and resources available to victims of abuse that I was unaware off.

    To extend this training and to access digital resources and support would be very valuable to the many trust staff working outside the 9-5 hours.

  12. Guest

    Martina Mc Aloon 3 months, 1 week ago

    This is an amazing collaboration between SHSCT and Women's Aid which supports patients experiencing Domestic Abuse. There is now a seamless direct referral pathway supporting patients and their families with a focus on early intervention and prevention. Through the DASS training Staff feel more confident  having courage's conversations with patients. This service is invaluable and it is imperative that DASS receives funding to continue its rollout in our hospital.

  13. Excellent Mary.  Exciting to see all your hard work pay off.  A very difficult topic for healthcare staff to address.  Best of luck with the application as I know you will continue to make this a successful piece of work.

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