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Multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) developed in the UK as a method to manage (reduce) the very extreme risks experienced by a proportion of domestic violence victims. The first MARAC was held in Cardiff, Wales in 2003 and now there are over 260 MARACs operating across England, Wales and Northern Ireland managing over 55,000 cases a year. ‘At the heart of a MARAC is the working assumption that no single agency or individual can see the complete picture of the life of a victim to be able to identify and manage the risks, but all may have insights that are crucial to their safety’ (CAADA, 2012). MARACs have been demonstrated as an effective method for helping victims of domestic violence, even those experiencing the most complex, chronic forms of abuse. My presentation will describe (1) the current British approach to high-risk cases of domestic violence, (2) how MARACs function, (3) key figures within the MARAC process, namely police and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors or IDVAs, and (4) what benefits MARACs can produce, both for the individual victim and the participating agencies. What is the British approach to high-risk domestic violence cases? Some background on UK developments will be helpful in understanding the current approach. The Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) role was established in 2005, specifically to provide advice and support to victims deemed to be at high risk of further abuse. Whilst advocates in refuges and standalone advocacy projects have always worked with high-risk victims, not until the emergence of the IDVA role was there such an explicit and wide-ranging effort to provide a distinct form of advocacy to the most at-risk victims (usually women). Targeting of services in this way has required knowledge of risk and risk assessment models previously not seen in the British domestic abuse sector. The IDVA intervention is designed to be delivered from the point of crisis over a relatively short period of time and is focussed on addressing immediate risks to safety and barriers to service utilisation, before referring victims on to other services. Key ingredients of IDVAs’ work include providing advocacy to individual victims (risk assessment, safety planning, practical advice and information, and emotional support, etc.) as well as institutional advocacy (coordination of the multi-agency response, challenging the ineffective practice of partner agencies, providing specialist advice, etc.) IDVAs must complete an accredited training course and there are now more than 1,000 in post across the UK. The proliferation of advocacy in the UK is largely due to the expansion of Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs) and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) for high risk victims in the last few years. These multi-agency interventions are the foundation of the UK government’s approach to tackling domestic violence, and IDVAs are viewed as essential practitioners in their delivery. The British approach to high-risk domestic violence cases involves a 3-stage process of (1) risk identification, (2) risk assessment, and (3) risk management. The first stage of risk identification involves the use of risk identification tool or checklist by frontline professionals (i.e., police officers or IDVAs). The second stage is where the risk information (gained from the risk factors) is assessed and then translated into a risk level (e.g., standard, medium or high risk). This is meant to be undertaken by specialist staff only and can be considered a structured judgment approach to risk assessment (rather than a purely actuarial approach). The third stage is the MARAC process where the risks facing a particular victim are discussed and a multi-agency safety plan is put into place. MARACs were designed to help the ‘top 10%’ - the most high risk cases. How do MARACs function? The MARAC model of intervention follows a process of risk assessment in all reported cases of domestic abuse, in order to identify those at very high-risk so that a specialist multi-agency approach may be taken on their behalf. Victims of domestic violence referred to a MARAC will be those who have been identified at high risk of serious injury or of being killed based on a common risk assessment tool (e.g., DASH). To facilitate the identification of high-risk victims there is now a common risk tool and accompanying guidance for all police forces in England and Wales, known as DASH (Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment). A version for non-police agencies has been created, known as CAADA-DASH. The use of a shared tool across agencies is essential to enable consistent and appropriate referrals to MARACs. Depending on the needs and size of the local area, MARACs are held at either monthly or fortnightly intervals. During the meeting, relevant and proportionate information is shared about the current risks faced by the victim, enabling attendees to identify options to increase the safety of the victim and any other vulnerable parties such as children. The primary focus of the MARAC is to safeguard the adult victim; however, taking into account the UK law on child protection, the MARAC will also make links with other multi-agency meetings and processes to safeguard children and manage the behaviour of the perpetrator. Both male and female victims may be supported by an IDVA and/or referred to MARAC; however, national data indicate that men account for less than 4% of MARAC cases. Who has a central role to play in MARACs? The MARAC is attended by representatives from a range of agencies including police, health, child protection, housing, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), probation, mental health and substance misuse and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors. All agencies have an important role to play, contributing information about risk and undertaking actions in order to improve the safety of the victim. My research on the original MARAC in Cardiff found that police and IDVAs are the key workers in the MARAC process. A recent review of MARACs across the UK undertaken by the Home Office in 2011 confirms this (see Figure 1 from Home Office Research Report 55). Police make the majority of referrals (60% on average) and usually serve as Chair. MARACs would be ineffective without the intelligence provided by police and the ability of police to instigate new investigations, collect evidence on existing investigations, and take direct actions to increase victims’ safety (e.g., CCTV, panic alarms). IDVAs are inseparable from MARACs since both services are targeted toward high-risk victims; IDVAs complete risk assessments, refer victims to MARACs, share information about individual cases, and represent the ‘victim’s voice’ at these multi-agency meetings. What impacts can be attributed to MARACs? Evaluations of the original Cardiff MARAC indicated the positive results from providing a multi-agency response to those victims suffering repeat, chronic abuse. Specifically, 6 in 10 had not been re-victimised 6-months after MARAC, dropping to 4 in 10 at the 12-month point. Currently, CAADA’s expected level of repeats for an established MARAC is in the range of 28-40%. To measure the impact of MARAC on victim safety CAADA recently carried out the first stage of a project researching MARAC outcomes, looking specifically at police call outs in the year before and after MARAC. The findings showed that 45% of victims reported a further incident to the police in the 12-months after the MARAC, which is similar to the original Cardiff findings. As CAADA notes, ‘Cases that go to MARAC are typically those with many previous incidents and that are escalating in severity. It is therefore not surprising that around 40% of these high-risk victims will experience a further incident, no matter how effective the MARAC’ (CAADA, 2012). MARACs can produce substantial cost-benefits. Professor Walby estimates that domestic abuse costs the UK an estimated £3.9bn per year and high risk domestic abuse makes up nearly £2.4bn of this. Financial analysis by CAADA estimates that for every £1 spent on MARACs, at least £6 of public money can be saved annually on direct costs to agencies. This is a total estimated savings of £740m annually to the public purse. Process evaluations of MARACs indicate that key ingredients for success are: strong partnership links; appropriate agency representation and good attendance; input by IDVA to represent the victim; and strong leadership by the Chair to make sure the meetings focused on ‘action planning’, not just ‘talking shops’.
Dr Amanda Robinson
Cardiff University
International Conference on "Violence in close social
relationships and stalking - Police officers dealing
with high-risk cases "
Rhineland-Palatinate Police Academy, Germany
5 November 2013
Overview: 4 elements to my talk
1. What is the British approach to high-risk
domestic violence cases?
2. How do MARACs function?
3. Who has a central role to play in
4. What impacts can be attributed to
1. What is the British approach
to high-risk domestic violence
Background: UK developments
Specialist, independent support for victims
Community-based advocacy
Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs)
Multi-agency initiatives
Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs)
Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs)
Policy context
UK: Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls
Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill
EU: Convention for Preventing and Combating Violence
Against Women and Domestic Violence
Risk and domestic violence
in the UK
Risk identification
Frontline officers
Risk assessment
Specialist DV officers
Other specialists (IDVAs)
Risk management
Information-sharing when risk is deemed to be a
‘public protection issue’
2. How do MARACs function?
Which cases go to MARAC?
1) Actuarial Risk Assessment
2) Professional Judgment
3) MARAC threshold
MARACs: In brief
A regular meeting of all key statutory and
voluntary agencies
To share information about the highest risk cases
in an area
Takes referrals from all agencies
First MARAC held in Cardiff in April 2003,
attended by members of 16 agencies
250+ areas now running MARACs in the UK
Lasts half a day
Deals with 15-20 high-risk cases
Most are police referrals
Most are women victims of male violence
Provides an opportunity for a brief and focussed
information-sharing process
A typical MARAC meeting
‘In a single meeting, a domestic violence MARAC
combines up t o date risk information with a
comprehensive assessment of a victim’s needs and
links those directly to the provision of appropriate
services for all those involved in a domestic
violence case: victim, children and perpetrator.’
(MARAC Implementation Guide, CAADA)
3. Who has a central role to
play in MARACs?
Home Office Research Report 55
Figure 1: National survey response to the question ‘how
regularly does a representative attend MARAC?’
(Percentage (%) of respondents)
Always attends Attends the majority of meetings Attends about half the time
Occasionally attends Never attends Don't know
Police and MARACs
Police play an essential role in identifying &
referring cases to MARACs
Police play an essential role in the MARAC
Permanent attendees
Taking actions
Serving as Chair
Typical actions taken by police
Number of previous DV
Previous convictions
Provide intelligence package to
sector inspector
agencies aware of risks
Details of incidents, use of
weapons, threats
to kill,
threats to harm children
Arrest offender
to Social Services
Breaches of bail
Arrest offender
Intelligence marker for officer
in charge
Heightened awareness by
agencies & likelihood that bail
not granted in future
Install CCTV
Organise special
measures at
Inform agencies who visit
home of high
DV MARAC Implementation Guide
Specialist, independent support
services for victims
Independent Domestic Violence Advisors
Their work is essential to MARACs
Coordinate the actions of involved agencies
Represent the ‘victim’s voice’, keep the multi-
agency focus on her safety
Bridge the gap between criminal justice goals
and the victim’s needs
Typical actions taken by IDVA at
IDVA Service
on whether victim has
engaged with IDVA
for safety
Update on whether victim has
engaged with other agencies
who might not be part of
Gives broader picture of extent
of support accessed
about victim’s
Relevant to intervention by
other agencies
jealous/controlling behaviour
Possibly relevant to charge
Details of sexual assault/abuse
suggest option of
criminal prosecution, referral
to specialist sexual violence
support service
Details of
impact of abuse on
Cross reference to information
held by other agencies and
affect approach taken by these
DV MARAC Implementation Guide
4. What impacts can be
attributed to MARACs?
Key findings: outcomes
Reductions in repeat victimisation
6-months after MARAC
6 in 10 had not been re-victimized
Participating agencies valued the MARACs the
extra work was “worth it”
12-months after MARAC
4 in 10 had not been re-victimized
Victims aware of multi-agency response, but
highlighted importance of advocates
Key findings: cost-benefits
“Invest £1 in the MARAC model to get £6 back” CAADA (2010)
Health service Police service Criminal justice
system (Excl.
Family courts Housing Children's
Other social
Cost per MARAC per annum Saving per MARAC per annum
Key findings: process
Factors linked to MARAC effectiveness
Strong partnership links
Appropriate agency representation
The role of the IDVA
Strong leadership by the Chair
Practitioners’ Perspectives
“Some agencies may have snippets of info that on
their own don’t raise any particular concern, it’s only
when the jigsaw of info is pieced together that the risk
factors begin to be understood.”
“Having something like a MARAC in place starts to
build relationships between agencies across a much
broader range, it develops much stronger relationships
between the voluntary and statutory sector.”
Victims’ Perspectives
“All the services know about the case history
Everyone seems to be working together… I can phone
people if I am down whereas before I used to let it all
get pent up inside me, and get angry…I was
“I am aware of the MARAC process and I think it is a
very important thing, very beneficial. It is vital that all
the agencies have as much information as possible.
Communication is vital.”
International recognition for the importance of
setting up “an effective multi-agency network
of professionals… to protect high-risk victims”
Setting up a risk-led, multi-agency approach is
essential for helping the most vulnerable victims
Cooperation essential to overcome implementation
Further Information
Dr Amanda Robinson (and website)
Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA)
DV MARAC Implementation Guide
Saving Lives Saving Money
Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE)
Home Office
Home Office Research Report 55
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.