Domestic violence is an issue that the majority of safeguarding professionals will have to deal with at some point in their careers. There are a variety of protocols and systems in place to assess the levels of risk domestic abuse victims are exposed to and prevent harm, and one of these is MARAC.
All kinds of agencies and people are involved in MARAC meetings, from educational facilities to those working in the police force or healthcare industry. No matter which organisation you represent, understanding the processes involved in MARAC and what is required of each attendee is important for anyone who takes part in any of these meetings or works in an environment where they may have to complete a MARAC referral for a victim of domestic abuse.
MARAC is a process involved in domestic violence and domestic abuse risk assessment and reduction. It stands for Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference and describes a meeting that takes place for various involved individuals to share information and decide on the best course of action to keep victims of domestic abuse safe from further harm.
The purpose of MARAC is to bring together a range of professionals involved in safeguarding so that they can share information and knowledge about preventative measures for domestic abuse. These meetings involve discussions about all the ‘high risk’ cases that are the responsibility of those attending, ensuring that everyone is made aware of serious situations and that all victims receive appropriate support and protection.
A MARAC is totally confidential, meaning that the people and situations discussed remain anonymous outside of the discussion. By sharing all the information available regarding current cases of abuse, all professionals involved gain a better idea of where their services are needed, whether any common risk factors can be tackled, and what steps are being taken by other, connected services.
The key aim of MARAC is to protect the adult victim that is affected by domestic abuse, addressing their safeguarding needs and deciding what actions can be taken to meet these. If any children or unborn babies are also identified as at-risk then they may be discussed and factored into the plan as well, but the primary focus is usually the adult directly impacted by abuse.
MARAC is not only important because it safeguards the victims of domestic abuse, but it also leads to the effective management of the perpetrator’s behaviour which reduces the likelihood of future cases of domestic abuse. By sharing information with other organisations involved in safeguarding action, overall safeguarding processes can be refined and linked, professionals themselves are kept safe by having more access to information, and a more holistic approach to reducing cases of domestic abuse can be created.
There are ten general principles defined by the Safe Lives domestic violence organisation that should be involved in every successful MARAC process. These are:
A MARAC meeting is the official conference or gathering of safeguarding professionals to discuss the high-risk cases of domestic abuse happening in their local area. Any high-risk individual who is the responsibility of one of the people attending can be referred for discussion at the meeting, which is usually held every two weeks.
There is a general process followed before, during and after a MARAC, which the majority of local organisations follow.
It begins prior to the meeting by identifying the individuals who have been deemed at high risk of domestic abuse through DASH risk assessments or other existing safeguarding processes. Their level of risk will be considered and any urgent steps that need to be taken will occur, such as contacting the police or removing children from a directly harmful context. Anyone who is deemed at a high risk of domestic abuse will be referred to the MARAC system.
Before a MARAC meeting takes place, all the parties involved will receive the agenda and research the relevant victims so that they can attend the meeting with all the necessary information. This ensures that as much context as possible can be provided for each case, ensuring that an effective plan of action can be devised.
At the fortnightly meeting, a confidentiality statement will be recapped and all parties will agree to keep all information shared private outside of the meeting. Each case will then be discussed, with every attendee sharing their information about those affected by domestic abuse so that a full picture can be created and everyone at risk can be identified.
After this discussion, action plans will be created for every victim, with each attendee suggesting what their organisation can do to remove risk and reduce the chances of future harm. These actions will be recorded in an official plan, which will be signed off as safe to implement by the person in charge.
The ‘multi-agency’ part of the MARAC acronym refers to the fact that representatives from a range of different agencies involved in safeguarding attend the meetings. This may include professionals from the local police department, probation officers or representatives, healthcare workers or those responsible for local healthcare services, members of child protection agencies and housing representatives.
The victims discussed in a MARAC do not attend the meeting themselves. Instead, an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor, also referred to as an IDVA, will attend on behalf of each individual who has been referred to the meeting and share the relevant information about each case.
After a MARAC meeting, each of the attendees will go back to their respective agencies and update their colleagues on any necessary actions that need to be taken. When these actions are completed, the MARAC coordinator will be notified.
Each IDVA who attended the MARAC meeting will report back to the individual they are representing and update them on the actions that are going to be taken to keep them safe. It is also the responsibility of the IDVA to ensure that these actions are followed through and monitor their impact to assess whether the situation gets better or worse.
The kinds of actions agreed upon after the meeting will depend on each domestic abuse situation and the agencies involved in the MARAC. Here are some of the most common aspects of an action plan:
MARAC stands for Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences. It’s an acronym that refers to a meeting that is held in order to put a protection plan in place to keep a potential victim of domestic abuse safe from future harm.
A MARAC referral is what happens if an individual is identified as being at ‘visible high risk' of domestic abuse, which is usually done as part of a DASH risk checklist. This means that they will be put into the system as a high-risk case and a meeting will be set up with a variety of parties to discuss a plan to reduce risk and keep the victim safe.
At the end of the MARAC process, a plan or series of actions will usually be agreed upon to keep a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse safe. A MARAC report will be the document detailing this information, along with any other context that is deemed relevant to the case and situation.
MARAC is a key part of keeping the victims of serious cases of domestic violence and abuse safe from further harm, as well as being an effective way to share information between organisations and create cohesive strategies for preventing abuse before it happens. Approaching these kinds of safeguarding situations from multiple angles means that the actions taken are much more likely to make an impact and also ensures that there are plenty of support systems in place in case one of them is removed for whatever reason.
If you’d like to find out more about the MARAC process and improve your awareness of the signs and risk factors of domestic abuse, we offer an ‘Awareness of Domestic Violence and Abuse’ online course that is suitable for anyone working in a safeguarding capacity.