About the risk led approach to domestic abuse

An Idva completes the Dash risk checklist for a victim of domestic abuse

Right now, 100,000 people in England and Wales are at risk of being seriously harmed or murdered by their partner. And they’re not the only ones at risk – 130,000 children live with this abuse too.

Our risk-led approach is founded on the belief that people at the greatest risk of death or serious harm as a result of domestic abuse, should get urgent help. This means every victim at high risk should have a dedicated domestic violence professional (an Idva) supporting them to become safe and well. And it means frontline services must work together to protect them and their family.

Since we were founded more than a decade ago, we have transformed the help available for victims at risk of murder or serious harm. We’ve trained more than 2,000 Idvas – specialists who help victims become safe. And we got the police and other professionals to work together to cut domestic abuse, setting up a Marac meeting in every area.

Our approach works: over 60% of victims who get help from Idvas and Maracs tell us that the abuse stops. And that means it saves lives.

More about Idvas

Idvas specialise in working with domestic violence victims at the highest risk

An Idva (Idaa in Scotland) is a specialist domestic violence professional who supports survivors of domestic abuse. Their job is to make them and their family as safe as possible. They stand side by side with survivors and make sure they get whatever help they need.

Idva stands for independent domestic violence advisor. Experts in domestic violence, Idvas provide vital emotional and practical support to victims. They deal with everything from getting an injunction, to sorting out money, to having the locks changed. Their job is to make sure the survivor is safe and able to rebuild their lives.

Idvas may work for charities, councils or other organisations like Victim Support or Women’s Aid. Many are located out in the community – such as in hospital A&E departments.

“My initial contact with the Idvas was earth-shattering. She asked very specific questions in exactly the right areas and I couldn’t believe how much she understood my situation.”

– Jane*, victim of domestic abuse

More about Maracs

Marac meetings work out how to help people who are at high risk of murder or serious harm. In 2017, over 65,000 adult survivors of domestic abuse were discussed at Maracs across the UK, and over 80,000 children were helped. 

Idvas, the police, children's social services, health and other relevant agencies sit around the same table. They share relevant, proportionate information about the survivor, their family including any children, and the perpetrator. The meeting is confidential.

Together, Marac participants write an action plan for each survivor of domestic abuse. Everyone present commits to taking the agreed actions. The Idva advocates for the survivor, holds the other agencies to account on their behalf, and ensures that afterwards they understand what is being agreed. 

Marac stands for multi-agency risk assessment conference. Every area in England and Wales has one, and they are spreading throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland too.

How we know this approach works1

We know this approach works because victims tell us so. High-risk cases are often very complex, and can escalate over many years - or just a few months. Following support from an Idva:

  • Incidents of high severity harm reduced by over 75%
  • 54% of victims said they felt much safer
  • 83% of victims said their quality of life had improved

The work to be done

Since 2007, SafeLives has trained more than 2,000 Idvas. There are currently around 8152 full time equivalent (FTE) Idvas in post, but this is not enough – and not all of them have been trained. This means that some families living with high-risk domestic abuse don’t get support, and many Idvas are trying to help too many families at once.

There are Maracs in every local authority area in England and Wales, with an increasing number in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but they aren’t always working as well as they should. Sometimes the right agencies aren’t around the table, or the action-planning isn’t good enough.

After living in constant fear, victims deserve to be supported in a way that works. They shouldn't have to leave their homes to be safe. Funding for Idvas and Maracs needs to be mainstreamed to make sure families receive high quality help, wherever they live.

Find out more about why the risk-based approach to domestic violence works, and read our recommendations for policy makers, in our policy library.

1. SafeLives Insights Data 2017
2. SafeLives Idva Survey 2016