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Multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)

In this video, Alison Higgins and Sam Goulding explain what happens at a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC).
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They’ve been going in this country since about 2002. It started in Wales, in Cardiff. And it was an attempt to bring agencies together to consider how to safeguard people in the really high-risk situations of domestic abuse. The police will go out to an incident, for example. Or a midwife might identify that somebody they’re working with they think is high risk. They’ll refer the case in to our IDVA service, Independent Domestic Violence Advocate service, and also to the MARAC at the same time. So the MARAC agenda gets constructed, people get sent around a list of the cases that are on for that particular meeting.
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And all those agencies work out, if they know about this person, if they’re working with that person, if there’s any risk issues for all of the family. And then actions are agreed and taken away. But in the meantime, while all that’s happening, IDVA, the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, will be trying to get in touch with that person, trying to get in touch with the victim, offer them support, offer them safety planning. So that by the time the case comes to MARAC, quite a lot might have been done already.
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So then, the MARAC is about just checking that everything - that everybody knows what needs to be known about the situation, that there aren’t any risk issues that people aren’t aware of. The intention is for a safety plan to be constructed around that victim at the meeting. They’re usually chaired and led by police, although over the last few years, that has changed so other agencies can undertake the training and chair those meetings. And they’re usually attended by some key agencies, peppered with some other ones. So key agencies would be Children’s Social Care, Adult Social Care, the police, the IDVA service, housing, mental health, drug and alcohol services, probation.
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The two levels of probation, so you’ve got your community’s rehabilitation part of the service and you’ve got your NPS, which is the National Probation Service for the higher risk perpetrators, or victims may be on the NPS as well. So all those agencies are seen as key agencies that would meet together. And the indicators for referring into MARAC come from a couple of different places. So we have the DASH risk assessment tool that an agency, a professional, may fill in. Historically, it would be looked at that if there was 14 ticks, responses on that risk assessment, that would class as being a high risk case into MARAC.
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What we’ve evolved, a little bit, in the domestic abuse world with is understanding that actually, there needs to be some room for that niggle, that professional curiosity where you’re just not quite sure that actually it might not be scoring 14, but something’s not quite right. And so, on professional judgement, I’m going to send it to MARAC. And that can happen. It’s not gatekeeped. So what that means is, if an agency feels it needs to go to MARAC, then that’s what would happen. And it would be heard at MARAC. And the rep would either feed back on the case, or the referrer would be invited along to represent their case.
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In our domestic homicide reviews, unfortunately we still have in Sheffield, most of the cases haven’t been on the MARAC agendas. So that says to me that the people that unfortunately are still getting killed are the ones that are kind of hidden, and more isolated, and hidden away, and vulnerable because of that. So we have got to make more effort to get to those people. But it does mean that, although people can experience some horrible things, they’re less likely to be killed if they’ve been considered in the MARAC process.

A Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a regular local meeting to discuss how to help victims at high risk of murder or serious harm.

In this video, Alison Higgins, Strategic Commissioning Manager for domestic and sexual abuse at Sheffield City Council and Sam Goulding, Regional Manager for IDAS, a specialist charity in Yorkshire that supports people affected by domestic abuse, explain what happens at a MARAC.

What do you think?

Have you heard of a MARAC before? If you live outside of the UK, do you have something similar in your country?
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