This chapter provides information for practitioners about the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) process which is a local multi-agency meeting aimed at protecting victims of domestic abuse through a range of multi-agency interventions.
RELEVANT INFORMATION AND FURTHER RESOURCES
A Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a local, multi-agency victim focused meeting where professionals meet to share information on high risk cases of domestic abuse.
Information about the risks faced by those victims, the actions needed to ensure safety, and the resources available locally are discussed, and used to create a risk management plan involving all agencies. The MARAC is part of a coordinated response to domestic abuse, incorporating representatives from statutory, community and voluntary agencies working with victims, adults experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect, children and alleged perpetrators.
The MARAC aims to:
- share information to increase the safety, health and wellbeing of victims / survivors and their children;
- determine whether the alleged perpetrator poses a significant risk to any particular individual or to the general community;
- construct and jointly implement a risk management plan that provides professional support to all those at risk and that reduces the risk of harm;
- reduce repeat victimisation;
- improve agency accountability; and
- improve support for staff involved in high risk domestic abuse cases.
2. MARAC Attendance
The MARAC consists of a core group of professionals, representing the statutory and voluntary sectors. The meeting involves contribution and commitment from agencies including police, probation, children’s social care, adult social care (mental health, safeguarding adults), health, education, housing, substance misuse services, and specialist domestic abuse services. Other agencies can attend as required, when they have involvement in a case which is being discussed.
In South Tyneside, the MARAC meets fortnightly, and is chaired by a Detective Inspector from the Police’s PVP (Protecting Vulnerable People) Unit.
The victim does not attend the meeting, nor the perpetrator or Crown Prosecution Service.
3. Independent Domestic Violence Advisors
Each victim referred to the MARAC will be allocated an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA). The IDVA is a trained specialist whose goal is the safety of domestic abuse victims, focusing on victims at high risk of harm.
The IDVA will attempt to make contact with the referrer and the victim following receipt of a MARAC referral. The IDVA’s job is to be a bridge between victims and the MARAC meeting. The IDVA will try and meet the victim beforehand, or at least talk to them on the phone, and explain how the meeting works, what it can do, and what the options are.
The IDVA will also ask if there is anything the victim would want to be discussed at the meeting.
4. Making a Referral to MARAC
Referrals can be made (and are encouraged) by any agency who identifies a victim of domestic abuse as being high risk. To make a referral into the MARAC, a Risk Checklist needs to be completed (see Section 5 below).
A DASH Risk Checklist will enable the practitioner to determine the level of risk posed to a victim. Upon meeting the MARAC threshold for high risk, the local MARAC coordinator / administrator should be contacted regarding making a referral. The case will be submitted for the next available MARAC; however in some circumstances, an emergency MARAC meeting may be called.
5. DASH Checklist
The DASH Risk Checklist is for all professionals working with victims of domestic abuse, stalking and honour based abuse.
The purpose of the checklist is to give a consistent and simple to use tool to practitioners who work with victims of domestic abuse in order to help them identify those who are at high risk of harm and whose cases should be referred to a MARAC meeting in order to manage the risk. The primary audience is front line practitioners working with victims of domestic abuse who are represented at MARAC. This will include both domestic abuse specialists, such as independent domestic violence advisors (IDVAs), and generic practitioners such as those working in a primary care health service or housing. However, a range of agencies can use the checklist with their clients or service users.
Risk in domestic abuse situations is dynamic and can change very quickly. Therefore, as well as being used when you receive an initial disclosure of domestic abuse, it may be appropriate to review the checklist with a client on more than one occasion. It is designed to be used for those suffering current rather than historic domestic abuse and ideally would be used close in time to the last incident of abuse that somebody has suffered. Using an evidence based risk checklist tool increases the likelihood of the victim being responded to appropriately and therefore of addressing the risks they face. The risk checklist provides practitioners with common criteria and a common language of risk. The risk checklisy should be introduced to the victim within the framework of an agency’s confidentiality policy, information sharing policy and protocols and its MARAC referral policies and protocols.
6. Assessing Risk
Practitioners must follow agreed protocols when referring to MARAC and children’s social care (see Local Contacts). It is important for practitioners to use professional judgement in all cases. The results from a checklist are not a definitive assessment of risk; they merely provide a structure to inform judgement and act as prompts to further questioning, analysis and risk management whether via a MARAC or in another way.
6.1 High risk victims
If the victim is assessed as high risk, a referral should be made to both the MARAC Coordinator and to the IDVA service. This, in itself, will not keep a victim safe and practitioners should consider what other actions are necessary including making a safeguarding referral where appropriate. Further information can be found in the South Tyneside Domestic Abuse Guide and Service Directory.
7. Interface with Safeguarding Adults
When deciding whether MARAC or safeguarding is the most appropriate process for a particular case, consideration should be given as to which process is most relevant in order to be able to resolve the issue. All involved professionals should discuss and agree the most appropriate process.
Referrals and involvement in both processes at the same time may result in confusion and duplication. Whichever process is followed, the main priority is always the safety and wellbeing of the adult (and any other adults at risk / children involved). Multi-agency safeguarding planning will be key in whatever process is used.
At MARAC meetings the adult will not be present (as may also be the case for safeguarding meetings); however either an IDVA or a victim support worker will be present to advocate on behalf of the adult.
Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) may also need to be considered in relation to an offender (see Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements chapter). Again, consideration needs to be given by all professionals as the most appropriate process.
When considering a referral to MARAC or adult safeguarding, professionals from any agency should adhere to these procedures and work to ensure the best interest of the adult.