Risk assessment and interventions for victims of domestic abuse: consultation response analysis

Analysis of responses to our public consultation which sought views on how multi-agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse could best be improved.


The Scottish Government published a consultation paper, ‘Improving Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Interventions for Victims of Domestic Abuse: A Scottish Government Consultation’, on 30 November 2018. The consultation ran until 2 March 2019.

The purpose of the consultation was to seek views on how multi-agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse in Scotland could best be improved. In particular, it aimed to explore how best to ensure a more consistent approach locally and how local arrangements could be strengthened to support the objectives of Equally Safe – Scotland’s strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls.

Through this consultation, Scottish Government wanted to explore the following in relation to multi-agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse:

  • Models of risk assessment
  • Information sharing
  • Safety planning
  • Relevant partners
  • Guidance
  • Provision in statute for effective arrangements

The consultation elicited substantial insight into the benefits and drawbacks of existing arrangements, proposals for improvements, and arguments for and against placing multi-agency arrangements for protecting victims of domestic abuse on a statutory footing.

This report presents a summary of the consultation responses received. Reflecting the nature of the questions asked, the analysis is qualitative and focuses on setting out the range of points made by respondents.

Background to the consultation

Domestic abuse is a fundamental violation of human rights and no level of domestic abuse is acceptable. Domestic abuse can escalate into stalking, sexual assault and murder and we have a duty to take steps to protect those at the greatest risk of harm.

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) are regular, local meetings where information about domestic abuse victims at risk of the most serious levels of harm (including murder) is shared between representatives from a range of local agencies to inform a coordinated action plan to increase the safety of the victim and their children.

The victim does not attend the meeting but is represented by an Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate (IDAA), who supports victims (through risk assessment, safety planning and institutional advocacy) and makes sure their views are heard, that agencies are held to account and that victims are kept informed after the meeting.

At the heart of a 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. MARAC, with its focus upon working collaboratively to ensure the safety of domestic abuse victims and their children, allows partners involved to share those insights and to develop robust and effective safety plans.

The 4 aims of MARAC are:

1. To safeguard victims (and their children)

2. To make links with other public protection arrangements in relation to children, perpetrators and vulnerable adults

3. To safeguard agency staff

4. To address the behaviour of the perpetrator.

There is no statutory obligation to hold MARACs. There are currently MARACs operating in 26 local authorities in Scotland with the remaining 6 in various stages of development.

The Scottish Government funds SafeLives to support the development of MARACs across Scotland and SafeLives independently collects and reports on Scottish MARAC data. To explore further the potential for developing a collaborative approach that underpins MARAC, in 2016 the Scottish Government provided funding to SafeLives to produce a baseline report detailing the position of MARAC in Scotland. In that report, SafeLives highlighted common challenges and successes of MARAC delivery across Scotland and made recommendations about what is required to improve practice. The baseline report was presented to key stakeholders at a roundtable in 2017, and generated discussion which demonstrated there is an appetite to gather further Scottish-specific evidence, and consideration of risk assessment models.

The Scottish Government’s work on tackling domestic abuse more widely is underpinned by a legislative framework and guided by a number of strategic documents.

Equally Safe is Scotland’s strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls. It was first published in 2014, updated in 2016, and is complemented by a Delivery Plan published in 2017. It was published jointly by Scottish Government and CoSLA, and has been developed in close collaboration with a number of stakeholders, many of whom have drawn on the voices and experiences of women and children impacted by gender based violence.

The strategy sets out a vision of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse, as well as the attitudes that perpetuate it. It articulates a shared understanding of the causes, risk factors and scale of the problem. It highlights the need to prioritise prevention, and it sets out how we will develop the performance framework which allows us to know whether we are realising our ambitions. We are committed to working collaboratively with partners and achieve change by making best use of available resources and with a clear governance framework underpinning delivery. A Joint Strategic Board has been established to oversee progress and identify emerging issues, and a Joint Delivery Group has been established to drive progress and embed collaborative working nationally.

The United Nations’ own definition of violence against women and girls has guided the development of policy in this area for many years; it recognises that this violence is both cause and consequence of gender inequality. Our definition, drawn from the UN definition, states that:

‘Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as 'gender based' this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women's and girls’ subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women's vulnerability to violence.’

When we talk about violence against women and girls, we refer to a continuum of violence which includes domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation (such as prostitution), and so called ‘honour based’ violence (such as Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriage).

The Equally Safe Delivery Plan sets out 118 actions over 2017-2021 to help to make the vision of Equally Safe a reality. These actions are set out under the four strategic priorities of Equally Safe.

The work to improve multi-agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse sits within priorities 3 and 4:

PRIORITY 3: Interventions are early and effective, preserving violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people


  • Justice resposnes are robust, swift, consistent and coordinated
  • Women, children, and young people access relevant, effective and integrated services
  • Service providers competently identify violence against women and girls, and respond effectively to women, children and young people affected

PRIORITY 4: Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive robust and effective response


  • Justice responses are robust, swift, cosistent and coordinated
  • Men who carry out violence against women and girls are identified early and held to account by the criminal and civil justice system.
  • Relevant links are made between the experiance of women, children and young people in the criminal and civil system

Helping services improve their knowledge of the signs of domestic abuse and of how to work together collaboratively will increase the early identification of victims and their safety. Greater awareness of good practice across services will also improve their collaboration and consistency of support offered to victims as well as holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Action 3.11 of the Delivery Plan relates directly to this consultation:

3.11 Consult on how to embed consistent and effective operation of multi-ageny structures to support high risk victims of domestic abuse, including consideration of national guidance and the creation of a statutory underpinning

Notes on language

This consultation asked about multi-agency risk assessment and working for victims of domestic abuse. MARACs are one particular model of this type of arrangement. Many respondents referred specifically to MARACs within their responses, and there was a sense that for many respondents, MARACs are synonymous with multi-agency risk assessment and interventions for victims of domestic abuse. However, in line with the questions that were asked in this consultation, this report generally discusses ‘multi-agency working’ or ‘multi-agency response’ in these more general terms.

We understand that the term ‘survivors’ is often preferred for those who have experienced domestic abuse, and many respondents used this term in their responses. Many other respondents used the term ‘victims’, and this is the term we use here in line with the consultation paper and in order to illustrate the individual’s continued risk of harm from domestic abuse.

The terms ‘practitioner’, ‘service provider’ and ‘frontline staff’ are used interchangeably to refer to individuals working for either public or third sector organisations who interact directly with members of the public in the course of delivering services.

Respondents variously used the terms minority ethnic, ethnic minority, BME and BAME. For consistency, the term minority ethnic is used throughout this report.

Many responses to the consultation used acronyms without stating what these stood for. In these cases, the meaning of these acronyms had to be assumed. Many of these are commonly used and so we can be confident that their meaning has been understood as the respondent intended; in a few cases the meaning was slightly more ambiguous, but we have made best efforts to interpret the meaning correctly. Those that have been used within this report itself are listed in Annex A.

Profile of Respondents

There were 69 responses to the consultation. 57 of these (83%) were submitted through the Scottish Government’s Citizen Space consultation page, and 12 were submitted by email.

Three-quarters of responses (51) were received from organisations; the remaining quarter (18 responses) were submitted by individuals. Half of the organisations who responded (26) were either specialist domestic abuse organisations or Violence Against Women Partnerships.[1]

All of the organisations who responded and who were content for their names to be published are listed in Annex B.

Of the 69 total respondents, 64 gave permission for their response to be published. These can be viewed on the Consultation Hub website.



Back to top