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The memory of my first day as an independent domestic abuse advocate (Idaa) is a vivid one. Feelings of excitement and nerves mixed anxiously with the knowledge that this was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing domestic abuse.

I quickly learned that in order to be an effective Idaa I’d have to operate in an ever-changing landscape of risk, safety planning and multi-agency working. On a daily basis I would be faced with accounts of the very worst examples of human behaviour. So there’s no denying it’s an intense job, but with the challenge comes the reward of building and sustaining trusting relationships with victims – giving them space to feel safe enough to tell their story (often for the first time) and knowing that after a disclosure, you have the capability to increase a client’s safety and sense of wellbeing.  

But seeing a client make a decision they didn’t feel capable of previously, understanding for the first time that they are not responsible for the abuse they’ve experienced, and witnessing their children start to thrive – these are the things which make being an Idaa a true privilege.

Creating change

With the role being so specialised and unique, it makes sense that there’s a specific qualification and accreditation for it. In the past two years, Scottish Women’s Aid, Community Safety Glasgow’s ASSIST and SafeLives have been bringing together Idaas from different organisations across Scotland to provide just that – a qualification which solidifies existing skills and knowledge with up-to-date research and a model of best practice.

I had the pleasure last month of taking part in an event hosted by Scottish Government to celebrate the achievements of this fantastic Idaa training and mark the start of 16 days of action. And celebrate we did, with informative and at times emotive accounts of the challenges which were overcome to design the training, how it was delivered and the impact it’s had on practice. It was also very reassuring to hear the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson’s commitment to addressing domestic abuse and his praise for the Idaa training. I was very lucky to be able to grab ten minutes at the end of the day to share the scope of the Marac development programme in Scotland with so many familiar and friendly faces in the audience.

175 trained Idaas is a fantastic achievement within itself, but the training has also created a powerful hub of individuals. They’re facilitators of change, equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively support victims and highlight the challenges in doing so within their own organisations, thus improving service delivery.

The role of Maracs

I’m very keen to find ways to facilitate and develop this network of Marac professionals across Scotland in my role as Marac development officer, to find a way to tap into the ongoing buzz about the Idaa role and their importance at Marac.

It’s a big undertaking to represent a client at a multi-agency risk assessment conference – an intense and fast-paced meeting where risk is identified and mitigated through safe information sharing and effective action planning.

Idaas are a vital part of the process, as Maracs will only be effective when they include the voice of the victim. The Idaa has a unique opportunity to make agencies aware of the client’s fears about abuse, the impact it’s having and what their expectations are. An Idaa will also ensure that victim safety remains the focus of the meeting, and they’ll provide feedback and continue to coordinate the safety plan after the meeting.

What next?

When I think back to my time as an Idaa, I’m reminded that the stories I heard and the experiences of the clients that I supported have a huge impact on the decisions I make now as a Marac development officer. I’m also reminded of a client who once told me that the risk assessment and Marac referral were great, but the best thing was that I was ‘on her side’ which made her daily challenges a little easier.

As a Marac development officer, I have an opportunity to not only influence the performance of Maracs across Scotland, but also to make sure I’m on the side of the Idaa, supporting them in their role at Marac and ensuring they have access to a wider network of colleagues who, just like them, are navigating risk, safety planning and multi-agency working, and making a real difference in the lives of those experiencing domestic abuse.  

Find out more

Do you attend Marac in Scotland? Get in touch to find out how SafeLives’ Marac development programme can help you or visit the SafeLives knowledge hub for more info.

We’re also delighted to announce that, from 2016, SafeLives will be running specialist training specifically for service managers working in Scotland. Find out more and apply today.