Practice blog


A Coordinated Response to Risk: Scottish Marac Operation

Jenny Smith is SafeLives' Marac Development Officer for Scotland. In this blog, she 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 here.

“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[1] 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[2] that over three quarters of referrals to Scottish Maracs come from Police Scotland and local Idaa services[3]. 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.

Marac in Scotland: National Update Report: read our 2020 national update report which provides an overview of the themes observed across Scottish Maracs between July 2019 and March 2020. 

Further reading: 

Resources for professionals in Scotland who are involved in the Marac process

Safe at home in Scotland: our response to Covid-19 in Scotland


[2] 26 Scottish Maracs currently submit quarterly data to SafeLives for analysis, this does not include all operational Maracs, however, including some large Scottish cities

[3] Based on data submitted between January and December 2019


SafeLives staff celebrate the women who inspired them

At SafeLives we celebrate women every day, among our colleagues, in the public eye, and among the survivors we interact with. 

This International Women's Day, we asked SafeLives staff "Who is inspiring to you?"


"Monroe Bergdorf. Although she rose to prominence as a model she has consistently used her platform to challenge systematic oppression on racial grounds and fight for trans rights and an end to gender based violence. She has been the constant target of our right wing mainstream media in attempts to discredit her and remove her from influential positions and campaigns at a national and international level. Despite this she continues to raise awareness of these issues and champion the rights of all women to live free from violence and abuse."

- Sarah West, Research Analyst


"Gloria Steinem: an icon of the feminist movement in the USA. As well as founding Ms magazine in 1972, Steinem has spent decades doing the hard, grassroots activist work that is needed to drive change. She has been relentless in her work to protect and extend reproductive rights, and get more women elected to office. She was also a vocal ally of black and Native American women during the 60s and 70s, when many white feminists excluded women of colour or simply didn’t consider them part of the movement. She has led an inspiring life in many ways, but what personally inspires me about her is her willingness to listen, find common ground and build movements that speak to real people’s lives. At 85 she is still going strong, and her book My Life on the Road is a great reminder of the power of meaningful conversations and genuine community engagement in these frustrating political times. I’ve also seen her live sharing a stage with Beyoncé!"

- Ruth Davies, Senior Communications Officer


"My inspiration comes from Ali Littlewood who was an Idva at Changing Lives.  

Currently, Ali is battling terminal cancer, she is inspiring because of her positive attitude and selfless nature of continuing to do random acts kindness for others, she helped so many women as an Idva and deserves to be recognised for the difference she has made to so many lives."

- Viv Bickham, Drive Expert Advisor


"Rose McGowan is inspiring; not just for the bravery of speaking out about her experiences, which must have taken a huge personal effort, but for helping create a whole new social era thanks to #metoo; for continuing to challenge inherent sexism in the entertainment industry and beyond; and also for standing up (and being seemingly immune!) to trolling and huge negative backlash for many years."

- David Evans, Project Support Officer


"My inspirational woman is my Auntie Suzanne.  Auntie Suzanne inspires me by always being brave, resilient, hardworking and kind." 

- Nanya Coles, Research Manager







"I’ve followed Adwoa Aboah since hearing her speak about her journey and treatment for depression, addictions and bipolar disorder. She’s an activist and model who set up an organisation to celebrate women and diversity and break the taboo on topics including sexuality, disability, identity, mental health, education & relationships. It’s great to see a model who insists on having a voice and who uses her platform to elevate these issues."

- Louisa Comber, Communications Officer


"Tessa Jowell was a huge friend and mentor to so many women in her long political career. She was also instrumental in achieving change for women and girls. Tessa fought for the first gender equal Olympics and held countries to account when they tried to slip back from that commitment. She gave so many new mothers and fathers a place to go for help and friendship when she launched SureStart, and she wasn’t afraid to call out sexist advertising on the tube when she targeted the Beach Body Ready ads, and prior to that size zero models in London Fashion week. She used to say “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t care about who takes the credit” and built cohesive coalitions of people, often cross-party and of no party, to achieve real, practical change. I miss her every day but she will inspire me for the rest of my life."

- Jess Asato, Head of Public Affairs and Policy


"Janet Mantle, Granny Nita, is the most positive, inspirational woman I know, whose stories never fail to leave me in awe. In 1938, aged just 17 she left Glasgow to train as a nurse in London. Aged 22, she moved to India to work as a nurse during WW2. She returned to Birmingham, before moving back to Glasgow to bring up her two amazing sons herself. Aged 40 she started midwifery training and went on to gain her diploma as a Midwifery Teacher aged 47. Aged 56, while still working, she achieved a certificate in Field Archaeology. This led her to work (after retirement!) in the Conservation Department at Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum; as a researcher for the Family History Association; and as a transcriber for the Census Roll – work she done until her second retirement, aged 78. To this day, she has better knowledge of Mail Merge than anyone I know and is a tech whiz – using her Alexa every day and getting an Amazon voucher most Christmas’s. Next month she’ll be 99. A true hero!"

- Natalie Mantle, Head of Communications and Marketing


"The woman who inspired me was called Eglantyne Jebb.  I’ve got a print of this photograph above my desk at home.  She looks terribly genteel, fountain pen in hand, as if she’s writing a thank you note for a gift of hyacinth bulbs or something.  But actually, she’ll have been writing to the Prime Minister or the Minister for War or something. 

When the First World War was ending, Eglantyne became aware of all the hundreds of thousands of children in Germany and Eastern Europe who no one was looking after. Orphaned, injured, homeless, malnourished, traumatised as war swept backwards and forwards across their homelands for four years.  The public and media considered them ‘enemy children’ and not worth bothering about.  Eglantyne said no war should be a war against a child and set up Save the Children to start an international effort to protect them.  She did all sorts of modern charity things for the first time – the first media appeal, filling the Royal Albert Hall for a fundraising event.  I worked for Save the Children for six years and thought them an amazing charity.  HRH The Princess Royal, Save the Children’s President, called her dog Eglantyne. 

This is my favourite quote of hers: “Save the Children is often told that its aims are impossible - that there has always been child suffering and there always will be. We know. It's impossible only if we make it so. It's impossible only if we refuse to attempt it.” 

- Alison Pavier, Head of Fundraising

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5 reasons why 2020 should be the year you sign up to do a 10k for SafeLives

If you’re someone who has always wanted to try running but has never had a reason to do so, this is the blog post for you. As someone who still breaks out in a cold sweat if I think about P.E bleep tests, I really understand if you couldn’t imagine anything worse.

To try and convince you, here are 5 reasons why 2020 should be the year you sign up to do a 10k for SafeLives. Let’s go through these together:


1. Every penny raised takes us a step closer to ending domestic abuse for everyone and for good

We know that the domestic abuse sector is woefully underfunded. We do life saving work at SafeLives, but we need funding to do it. Last year, we trained 7,000 officers in our award-winning DA Matters training and supported more than 65,000 adults who between them were the parents or carers for 85,000 children through interventions. We are so proud of this. But, with millions of people in the UK being victims of domestic abuse every year – we need your help to make ending domestic abuse for everyone and for good a reality.


2. Once you’ve signed up, there is no going back.

As ominous as this sounds – I think in a way it’s quite motivating! If you’re working towards a goal and shout about it by posting it on social media, you’re much more likely to work towards achieving it. Plus – if you sign up for one of our places, it’s free!


3. You can be part of a SafeLives community

Training for a 10k can sometimes feel a bit lonely, so we’ve set up a platform where you can see what your fellow SafeLives supporters are raising through JustGiving. There’s even a list of our top fundraisers for our challenge events. Who knows, that could be you!


4. It’s the perfect way to schedule you-time into your day

Everyone needs some time to be in their own headspace and often it’s really hard to justify that time to ourselves when we have other things going on. Running is the perfect way to re-centre your mind on yourself, your needs, and gives you the headspace to reflect on anything that’s bothering you that day. Signing up to a 10k is just a way to justify that much needed you time!


5. Why not?!

If you’re one of those people who has always thought about doing a 10k but has put it off, why not just sign up?! What do you have to lose?


If you’re feeling inspired, why not have a look at how to sign up for the Bristol 10k or Vitality London now?

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at fundraising@safelives.org.uk.

The story of Sistah Space

Ngozi Fulani is Head of Service at Sistah Space, and an Idva. In this blog, she explains where Sistah Space began and the unique service they offer.

Sistah Space was founded after the brutal murder of Valerie Forde and her baby daughter. We attended the trial and learned that Valerie had, in fact, reported a threat to kill to the police which was recorded as a threat to property.

When we exited the courts after the guilty verdict, we realised that we had nowhere to go. The family and supporters were on the street crying and at that point we realised African and Caribbean heritage people don’t actually have a venue to go to. We can’t go to Costa and cry, we need our own space. So we started the Sistah Space.

The idea of Sistah Space is to ensure that black women and girls who should not be categorised as ‘BAME’, would have a venue where they could see themselves reflected, where the assumption that we all have language or immigration issues is often made. We needed to look at why Valerie Forde, her daughter and the rest of the family were failed.

We repeatedly applied for funding which was routinely turned down because ‘BAME’ organisations were claiming to support ‘black’ victims. These organisations along with mainstream organisations were not understanding that we have a need that was not being met.

Four years without funding and with people failing to understand that because of lack of education, black victims continue to suffer or die at the hands of perpetrators.

Fast forward to today…

We now have five qualified Idvas, we are in a two year partnership with Victim Support, we are influencing the SafeLives training manual to make it more inclusive, we have a rolling programme of training for Homerton University Hospital and we are preparing to deliver training UK wide including Hackney Council.

We are still campaigning for change to ensure that we can introduce Valerie’s Law, which will mean that every organisation should undergo routine training to understand various cultures.

For more information visit the Sistah Space website

Helping survivors get back on their feet through Shared Lives

Ali Miller is the Development Officer at Shared Lives, working on the Domestic Abuse and Modern Slavery projects. In this blog Ali, as well as Sally Steadman-South from SafeLives, and Amy*, a survivor of abuse who has been housed through the scheme, share their reflections on the Shared Lives model of accommodation for survivors.

Shared Lives is a model of accommodation and support that is typically used in social care and healthcare. It was initially designed for people with learning disabilities; a housing option that supporting them to benefit from and contribute to their community. The model worked well and we realised it could benefit people with a broad range of needs. Schemes can now be open to:

  • people leaving hospital for interim care
  • people with mental ill health
  • young people in transition from children’s services and young people leaving care
  • people with drug and alcohol misuse
  • older people and people with dementia.

For two and half years, we at Shared Lives Plus have been working with SafeLives alongside two pilot schemes, ategi in Buckinghamshire and Positive Steps in Shropshire, to trial the Shared Lives model of accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse. 

Since joining earlier in 2019, my eyes have really been opened to the reality that is thousands of women’s lives: life after domestic abuse. Coming from a social care background, I have been looking at how Shared Lives can support female survivors of domestic abuse.  Whilst I have been aware of the physical and emotional impact of domestic abuse, I hadn’t always considered the economic and practical toll that this can have on survivors; leaving people relying on friends and family for accommodation, sofa surfing or staying in inadequate accommodation. I’ve realised that sometimes people simply need a stepping stone; a stop-gap to help them get back on their feet after domestic abuse.

This is where Shared Lives can come in. Whether someone is fleeing an abusive relationship, moving on from refuge or having problems accessing housing, Shared Lives can provide a buffer; helping them get back on their feet within an ordinary family home.

At present, the Shared Lives schemes in Shropshire and Buckinghamshire have available places, from now until March 2020, for women who have experienced domestic abuse. They can live rent-free in the home of a Shared Lives host, someone who has an understanding of their situation and can support them with moving forward and living independently.

There are around 14,000 people living in Shared Lives arrangements across the UK and no two arrangements are the same. People access Shared Lives with a wide range of support needs. Whatever the circumstances, Shared Lives hosts share home life and community life with people who move in with them and help with the areas of life where people need a hand.

Sally Steadman-South, SafeLives, has been supporting the scheme since September 2019:  

Working with Shared Lives has really broadened my understanding of alternative, safe housing options for survivors of domestic abuse.  SafeLives hold a strong belief that if a survivor wishes to stay in their own home it should be made safe enough for them to do this.  However, if they don’t want to stay in the home then safe housing options should be accessible.  We know from our practice that women who do not have dependent children, or who have support needs such as mental health issues or disabilities, will not always be eligible for traditional housing options such as local authority temporary accommodation and refuge. We also know that these survivors are often increasingly isolated and vulnerable.  This is one of the main reasons why the Shared Lives model is uniquely placed to offer support and provide women with a safe housing choice. 

Throughout the scheme, we have listened to the partners, the schemes and the sector about how this could be safe and suitable for domestic abuse victims.  Schemes receive training on how to identify risk and develop an individual safety plan, including the physical safety of the property.  They also link with local services to ensure specialist domestic abuse support is provided where possible.  We have also provided guidance for local authority housing departments so that survivors are still seen as safe and temporary not safe and secure - so that they are still treated as a priority and can access the same move on options. 

Amy* became homeless after experiencing domestic abuse. She moved into Shared Lives scheme and shares her experience:  

When Amy came to live with her host Carol*, she was unsure whether it would be the right thing for her but she knew she needed support and was willing to give it a go.

Amy says “Moving in with Carol was different to what I imagined. I didn’t want to be treated like a child, but I wasn’t. Carol respected me and treated me like an adult. I was able to be independent and make my own decisions, but I’ve had someone there to help me and I’ve had a safe place to call home”.

Amy said she would recommend Shared Lives to other women who have experienced domestic abuse. “My advice would be to give it a go. It’s helped me and I’m in a much better place now”.

How you can get involved?

If you know of anyone who lives in or wants to relocate to Buckinghamshire or Shropshire, there are funded places available in people’s homes under their local Shared Lives schemes. This funding ends in March 2020 and we are eager to get this message out to people in frontline services so that women can benefit from this opportunity. For more information get in touch and help us to give people a hand when they need it most.

Contact Ali Miller at Shared Lives Plus:

For more information:

*All names have been changed to preserve the anonymity of survivors and Shared Lives carers involved.