A Coordinated Response to risk: Scottish Marac operation

Jenny Smith, SafeLives’ Marac Development Officer for Scotland, looks at the development of Marac in Scotland

For the past 15 years Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (Marac) have transformed the multi-agency response to domestic abuse across Scotland. At the heart of Marac is the working assumption that no single agency or individual can see the complete picture of the life of a victim, but all may have insights that are crucial to their safety. By sharing relevant, risk-focused information in a safe environment, a coordinated multi-agency safety plan can be developed, increasing victim safety.

SafeLives have been supporting Scottish Maracs through the Marac Development Programme (MDP) since 2015, working closely with Scottish Government to improve and develop a national framework for the multi-agency response to domestic abuse in Scotland. Any professional working with a victim of domestic abuse can refer into Marac – find the details of your local Marac.

Attending Marac allowed me to see how important the sharing of information can be to enable discussions on how to reduce harm and [address risk]

Domestic Abuse Practitioner, 2019

These are uncertain and challenging times for all of us, but particularly so for those experiencing domestic abuse and the professionals supporting them. Covid-19 has presented new challenges and many of us have found ourselves isolated in our own homes, and for some, home is not a safe place. Now more than ever, we need a coordinated multi-agency response to domestic abuse, one that recognises domestic abuse as everybody’s business and sees the impact on the whole family

From our engagement with Scottish Maracs, before and during the Covid-19 crisis, it is clear there is a strong commitment to multi-agency working to support adult and child victims of domestic abuse across Scotland. Maracs have continued operating throughout lockdown, with examples of truly creative practice, reflecting the commitment of professionals and agencies to work together to improve the safety and outcomes for adult and child victims of domestic abuse. However, as we move out of lockdown and into the ‘new normal’, just as the responses to the Scottish Government consultation on multi-agency arrangements highlighted, access to consistent, sustainable funding and training that recognises local diversity, are key to ensuring the sustainability of Scottish Maracs in the long term.

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown have highlighted the need for multi-agency professionals to spot the signs of domestic abuse and refer to Marac and specialist support as appropriate. We know from our Marac data that over three quarters of referrals to Scottish Maracs come from Police Scotland and local Idaa services. Although this in part reflects reporting trends it highlights that unless a victim of domestic abuse in Scotland reports to police or seeks help from their local domestic abuse service, they are unlikely to access vital support from their local Marac.

As victims may be experiencing limitations on their ability to reach out for help, professionals must ‘reach in’ and offer support. Marac provides an opportunity for agencies to work together, pooling resources and using these in new and creative ways to address risk and support adult and child victims of domestic abuse.

When everyone attends, Marac undoubtedly increases the safety of victims

Scottish Marac Representative, 2018

Through these challenging times, Maracs have continued to operate, finding new and creative ways to ‘reach in’, as part of a coordinated community response to risk for adult and child victims of domestic abuse. Effective multi-agency working will improve the safety of Scotland’s survivors, but organisations and structures need to be well supported with long-term, sustained resources. As we move out of lockdown and into a changed landscape, now more than ever we must work together to ensure anyone experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland can access the right response at the right time.

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