8th July 2015
I needed my Idva to literally negotiate with all these people [at Marac] on my behalf… grab them by the scruff of the neck and make them understand the situation, which she did.
It was with great interest that I read an article in yesterday’s Guardian, which asked: “Domestic violence: are Maracs making a difference to victims' lives?”.
So, let me be upfront. SafeLives has been championing the Marac/Idva response for the last ten years. The approach works because victims get the 1:1 support they need, in the knowledge that local agencies are pooling resources and working together to help them live in safety. It also means professionals can get a thorough, multi-agency response to the domestic abuse cases they’re most worried about. While Marac is not a magic wand, it’s still the only national platform we have which offers this kind of targeted support.
The Guardian piece reflects on the findings of a recent study of a Marac in the north of England. We’re told that it’s an area which sees a high volume of cases. This is no surprise – in the last five years, the number of cases being heard each year at Maracs in the UK has shot up from 45,581 to 78,144. That’s a staggering rise of over 70%.
Marac works to cut the risk faced by families living with domestic abuse, and ensure their individual needs are met. In a time of ever-dwindling resources, the implication of managing more referrals is a real concern.
But here at SafeLives, we know the approach is worth it. Done properly, Maracs and Idvas make women and children safe. So you’ll forgive me if I’m a little rattled when the article calls for “evidence that the time, effort and commitment of Marac attendees makes a difference”. Our research shows that the abuse stops for more than 6 in 10 victims supported by an Idva and a Marac. 71% say they feel safer. And more than two-thirds say their quality of life has improved since they got help.
But what our research proves is that this response only works for victims when it’s properly supported and resourced. The Marac is a model – it’s not a miracle. This goes for Idvas too. A Marac without Idva support is like a ship without a sail, and to see them in isolation shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the high-risk approach. A single Marac meeting gives the chance to share valuable information and create an action plan which makes families living with abuse safer. But it would never be enough without the continuous support offered to the victim by the Idva – before, during and beyond Marac.
Idvas are highly adept advocates and experts in domestic abuse, and are there to be the voice of the victim. This means they hold the Marac to account, and make sure the wishes of the women they support are acted on so they can be safe. But when the number of Idvas is just half what’s actually needed, it stands to reason that those that are in post are seeing twice as many cases as they can manage.
It’s easy to see how Marac has become a victim of its own success. Agencies can see it as “just another meeting” and, even when attendance is good, caseloads can still be high. In spite of this, the vast majority of victims referred to Marac are very high-risk. And to me this just emphasises the need for the framework to exist – without Maracs and Idvas, many of these families would receive no help at all.
As the saying goes, domestic abuse is everyone’s business. Marac practitioners tell us that, when agencies see the difference the Marac has made to the life of a family, they get why it’s worthwhile. And it’s this commitment and understanding that keeps families safe. We know because victims tell us so.
I received so much support because of the Marac. Without it, I’d still be in a violent relationship now.