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.
5. Risk Assessment and Whole System Responses
16. Attendees were asked to consider:
i. Risk Assessment
- How to develop and ensure a shared and common understanding of what risk looks like in relation to domestic abuse;
- How to improve the effectiveness of current methods/tools; and
- The support needed nationally and locally to strengthen their effectiveness moving forward.
ii. Whole system responses
- The current barriers to promoting a whole systems response to domestic abuse and the opportunities/ enablers to overcome these;
- The support needed nationally and locally to support this, and where this support is lacking; and
- Areas of good practice/current whole systems responses to learn from.
17. Key messages from the deep dive included:
- Training in both domestic abuse and current risk assessment tools like the Dash checklist, and potentially a standardised method and associated practices, would help ensure a consistent approach across systems and services (although some stakeholders have expressed concerns about the Dash's suitability for use by frontline staff without sufficient training);
- Common and shared language would help to promote a shared understanding of issues across systems and services; and
- Strong national and local leadership is vital to ensure recognition across systems and services that tackling domestic abuse is everyone's business.
Key Discussion Points
18. When asked about how we could develop a common and shared understanding of what risk looks like in relation to domestic abuse, attendees highlighted the importance of:
- Training in both domestic abuse and current risk assessment tools like the Dash;
- Embedding risk assessment and responses in organisational practice and ethos;
- The use of common language to promote a universal understanding across systems and services;
- Quality assurance processes to ensure consistency across areas;
- An audit to better understand how current tools are being used and how we might improve practice;
- Clear data sharing agreement to ensure information is shared across relevant services and agencies; and
- Clear pathways of support that are readily accessible.
19. When asked how we could improve the effectiveness of current tools and methods, attendees reflected on the potential benefit of:
- Adequate and accessible training and resources;
- Quality assurance processes to measure the effectiveness of current methods and their impact;
- Creating and fostering links with other public protection processes;
- A directory or repository of available services and training/resources that is easily accessible and kept up to date; and
- Strong leadership and strategic buy in across organisations and agencies.
20. In relation to the support needed nationally and locally to strengthen the effectiveness of current risk assessment processes, attendees noted:
- The requirement for strong national and local leadership, and a recognition across systems and services that tackling domestic abuse is everyone's business.
- A national framework or structure might be beneficial to address inconsistencies and ensure victims/survivors across Scotland receive a consistent response.
- The need for a commitment to general training and awareness raising across national and local systems to ensure practitioners and leaders are aware of their roles and responsibilities.
21. When discussing current barriers to promoting a whole systems response for tackling domestic abuse, and how to overcome these, attendees noted:
- There is a lack of knowledge and confidence among practitioners to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and to intervene effectively. This is compounded by a lack of awareness about services or available support;
- A need to consider a 'whole family approach', and increase awareness of how signs of domestic abuse can be present across the family unit;
- The importance of all public bodies, agencies and service representatives working together in a collaborative way and having a robust understanding of their individual and collective roles and responsibilities in relation to information sharing;
- The need to ensure Maracs enjoy the same recognition and buy in as other public protection processes and that all key partners recognise their roles and responsibilities within the process. It was noted that there should also be some accountability and/ or governance mechanism attached to the process;
- The importance of all key public sector and third sector partners working together to ensure women with multiple and complex needs benefit from person-centred pathways of support and minimise siloed working within systems and services;
- The benefit of ensuring all policy is developed through a gendered lens to lead to better outcomes for women and children.
22. When thinking about the national and local support needed to promote a whole systems approach, attendees reflected:
- Resourcing was a factor nationally and locally and additional funding in this area would be required to ensure systems, services and structures are able to respond to the needs of women and children;
- National leadership would be hugely beneficial as it would help organisations and agencies to better understand their role in tackling VAWG. A national framework/standards for Maracs that is adaptable to local context would be beneficial;
- National Marac standards underpinned by a statutory footing might help ensure a joined up approach and that organisations and agencies recognise and fulfil their roles and responsibilities; and
- Clear data sharing agreements and processes between agencies would be beneficial, potentially in the form of national templates that can be adapted to local context.
23. In relation to areas of good practice in this area we might learn from and adapt, attendees noted:
- Public protection arrangements like MAPPA provide an insight into other public protection agencies and the potential benefits of a statutory footing;
- There are opportunities to learn from local authority areas that have developed multi-agency projects/ processes (generally with strong links between local Women's Aids, VAWPs, public services and specialist domestic abuse services) to enable victims/survivors to have access to joined-up pathways of support depending on their needs and that information is easily and readily shared and available to relevant agencies; and
- The Safe and Together national model helps promote a whole systems response by embedding a streamlined understanding and response for victims/survivors of domestic abuse among practitioners.
Themes for Further Discussion
24. The following themes emerged from the deep dive session as key issues and possible actions to be explored. They were be considered as part of the Advisory Group's development of recommendations and an action/implementation plan:
i. How might a sustainable, consistent, whole systems approach be promoted at a national level, with improvements to effectiveness and quality assurance?
Responses could include:
- A recommendation to explore this within the refresh of Equally Safe and its delivery plan;
- Considering how to increase capacity and resourcing for Maracs nationally and locally;
- Performing a mapping and analysis of current gaps in provision and quality, listening to victims/survivors and their experiences of systems and services;
- Undertaking an audit of, and tracking use of, Dash and other risk assessment tools being used across Scotland;
- Developing quality standards for Idaas and the Dash;
- Disseminating learning and best practice gleaned from the Marac co-coordinators forum, and setting up a process for sharing 'case study' learning;
ii. What measures can be taken to develop robust links with other public protection processes?
iii. How might development of Maracs in Scotland link in with development of a Scottish approach to Domestic Homicide Reviews to harness learning for systems and services?
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