Victims/survivors of domestic abuse - multi-agency risk assessment and interventions: report
A report relating to the development of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (Maracs) covering views, themes and recommendations identified at a series of stakeholder deep dive sessions in 2021.
10. National Guidance and Statutory Footing
46. Attendees were asked to consider:
- The guidance and resources available to support local Maracs and what works well;
- The current barriers to the guidance being implemented, and how to strengthen systems and processes to overcome these;
- If national guidance would help to drive improvement and any challenges in this area; and
- How to strengthen the Marac process at a local level and whether a statutory footing would strengthen how Maracs currently operate.
47. Key messages from the deep dive included:
- There are examples of good practice in terms of guidance and resources that could be adopted and adapted across local authority areas but the process would benefit from a clear national steer in terms of what resources should/can be used;
- A National guidance document for Maracs and a central repository for training and resources could offer consistency
- A quality assurance process for Maracs could provide monitoring and improvement mechanisms.
- While a statutory footing would help ensure Maracs are viewed at the same level of priority as other public protection processes, a careful consideration of potential negative consequences would be required as part of any decision making process.
Key Discussion Points
48. When asked about the current guidance and resources available and any barriers to implementing guidance, attendees reflected:
- Maracs generally follow SafeLives' guidance for Maracs based on the development of the evaluated model in England & Wales, which has been adapted to reflect the Scottish context and meet Scottish need;
- There is a suite of learning and resources available but no clear direction in terms of which to use or what resources would be most appropriate; and
- There are examples of good practice in terms of guidance and resources that could be adopted and adapted across local authority areas. This includes some guidance for chairs and co-ordinators.
49. When asked about the potential benefit of national guidance in this area, attendees noted:
- National guidance could ensure consistency and some form of quality assurance process for Maracs;
- National guidance could also be useful as a framework for training and resources;
- National guidance could also enshrine data sharing agreements and principles to support an effective flow of information between agencies; However, it would be important to ensure this was regularly reviewed and updated; and
- To help inform any guidance, there needs to be work done to gather information from Maracs across Scotland to find out what works well in order to inform specific sections. For example, joint working, representation, quality standards, training and resources.
50. When asked about how to strengthen local Maracs and whether a statutory footing would help to drive improvements, attendees noted:
- Some local areas have a dedicated Marac Coordinator in place which is hugely beneficial to the productive and effective operation of Maracs within a local area; however, even in these areas great variation exists in job descriptions, roles and responsibilities
- The role of an Idaa in the process is crucial but provision is inconsistent and there are issues with resourcing in some areas;
- With no mandatory requirement to fund Maracs, funding allocation is inconsistent and it is often left to local areas to seek funding opportunities, some of which can be time limited;
- Having Maracs on a statutory footing could assist strategic buy in at a local level through an 'everybody's business' strategic approach and ensure that the right representatives attend and are present at meetings;
- A statutory footing would increase the sustainability of multi-agency arrangements, as there can be an element of uncertainty in some areas as to the continuation from year to year due to changes in priorities and funding;
- A statutory footing might facilitate a more coordinated approach and place multi-agency arrangements for protecting victims/survivors of domestic abuse on the same status as other public protection processes;
- There is a concern that if arrangements are placed on a statutory footing:
- The scope and focus of Maracs will fall predominantly to statutory agencies and not the third sector which could result in a loss of domestic abuse expertise.
- Some victims/survivors may be reluctant to engage with statutory organisations which could push women into the margins because they are fearful of e.g. immigration status;
- Maracs could become subsumed into the process for wider public protection arrangements and lose its gendered analysis. Placing Marac arrangements on a statutory footing would require careful and thorough consideration to ensure that these risks are addressed.
Themes for Further Discussion
51. The following themes emerged from the deep dive session as key issues and possible actions to be explored. They will be considered as part of the Advisory Group's development of recommendations and an action/implementation plan:
i. What do we need to do to inform decisions on a potential statutory footing?
- This could require a more detailed assessment of any potential risks of placing Maracs on a statutory footing, how these can be addressed, and what any specific duties for statutory partners would look like and mean in practice (potentially with recommendations on these duties if needed).
- It could also entail investigation of what resources, including funding, would be needed across all local authority areas enable them to implement robust, multi-agency arrangements, taking into account the nuanced needs of areas that will have a high volume of referrals, or in which meetings that cover large geographical areas.
ii. What are the next steps in potentially developing SG/ COSLA/ PHS Marac guidance and national standards?
- This could involve consideration of what guidance and national standards would look like and how they would be used in practice, potentially with the use of self-assessment tools to help identify any gaps across Maracs in different local authorities.
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