Helping high-risk victims of domestic violence fast

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.

SafeLives thinks victims at the greatest risk of death or serious harm should get the fastest help. This means every high-risk victim should have a dedicated domestic violence professional (an Idva) supporting them to live in safety. And it means frontline services must work together to protect them and their family.

Since we were founded more than a decade ago, SafeLives has transformed the help available for victims at risk of murder of serious injury. We’ve trained more than 2000 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 victims at the highest risk of murder or serious injury. Their job is to make the victim and their family as safe as possible. They stand alongside victims and make sure they get whatever help they need.

Idva stands for independent domestic violence advisor. Experts in high risk 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 victim is safe – and they do whatever it takes.

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 discuss how to help victims who are at high risk of murder or serious harm. In 2014, more than 74,052 cases, involving 93,759 children, were discussed at Maracs across the UK.

The Idva, police, children’s social services, health and other relevant agencies all sit around the same table. They talk about the victim, the family and the perpetrator, and share information. The meeting is confidential.

Together they write an action plan for each victim. Everyone present commits to take the actions they have agreed. The Idva represents the victim and, after the meeting, makes sure they understand what was 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 works

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 and a Marac:

  • Abuse stops for more than 60% of victims
  • 71% of victims said they felt safer
  • 69% of victims said their quality of life had improved

The work to be done

Since 2007, SafeLives has trained more than 2000 Idvas. Around 485 of these are currently in post, but this is only half as many as are needed. 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.