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, stalking and ‘honour’ based abuse through a range of multi-agency interventions.
A Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a local meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse cases between representatives of the local police, probation, health, children and adult safeguarding bodies, housing practitioners, substance misuse services, Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.
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 four aims of a MARAC are:
- to safeguard adult victims who are at high risk of future domestic abuse;
- to make links with other public protection arrangements in relation to children, people causing harm and vulnerable adults;
- to safeguard agency staff;
- to work towards addressing and managing the behaviour of the person causing harm.
It also 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;
- to evaluate effective information sharing to enable appropriate actions to be taken to increase public safety;
- 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.
At the heart of a MARAC is a working assumption that no single agency or individual can see the complete picture of the life of a person who is at risk, but all may have insights that are crucial to their safety, as part of the coordinated community response to domestic abuse.
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.
The victim does not attend the meeting, nor the perpetrator or Crown Prosecution Service.
3. Independent Domestic Violence Advisors
Victims subject to MARAC will be offered the support of an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA), a trained specialist, to advocate on their behalf and support them through the process. The IDVA is independent from the police and is employed by Victim Support.
The IDVA will attempt to make contact and arrange face to face meetings, in a confidential manner, with the victim within 24 to 48 hours of referral. This is a voluntary process and cannot be enforced. The aim is to help the victim make informed choices.
While the IDVA will act as a voice between the victim and any actions agreed within the MARAC process, their primary role is to offer impartial and independent support in addition to practical safety planning for the victim and their families. They will also ensure comprehensive support around criminal prosecution processes, by communicating with police as well as the courts with a view to creating a strong sense of trust and reassurance.
4. Making a Referral to MARAC
Referrals can be made by any agency that identifies that a victim of domestic abuse is high risk.
The Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence DASH Risk Checklist (DASH Checklist, see Section 5 below) enables a practitioner to determine the level of risk posed to the victim.
Irrespective of the origins of the referring agency it is the same accepted practice for the MARAC forms, including DASH Checklist to be completed. The forms also remain the same across agency use.
Safeguarding staff can refer to the MARAC if the risk of domestic abuse is found to be high. The MARAC may also make a referral to safeguarding if someone has care and support needs.
5. DASH Checklist
The DASH Risk Checklist is for all professionals working with victims of domestic abuse, stalking and harassment and honour based abuse. If practitioners are working with victims of domestic abuse, they should complete the tool as necessary. The DASH Checklist is used to gather relevant information about the person’s circumstances in order to assess the risk posed to them. All practitioners working with victims of domestic abuse should be trained in understanding and the use of the DASH Risk Checklist, prior to completing the checklist.
6. Interface with Safeguarding Adults
Where the safeguarding enquiry relates to domestic abuse it may also be appropriate to make a referral to the MARAC. This is usually done through completing the DASH RIC risk assessment (see DASH Checklist). Currently, where the DASH Checklist score is 14 or above a referral should be made to the MARAC. If support is needed by the lead agency in completing the DASH Checklist, then a referral can be made to Freeva (see Freeva). The MARAC is a multi-agency hub and can help ensure that all relevant agencies are involved with working with and safeguarding the person; however unless there is another high risk incident, the MARAC is not usually a longer term intervention which is why it may be appropriate for both the MARAC process and Safeguarding to be used together. If both the Safeguarding and MARAC routes are being used, then effective communication between agencies is essential and the MARAC should be made aware that there is an on-going safeguarding enquiry and who is the point of contact for this. 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 at risk will not usually be present; 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.