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Suffolk: New pledge to help victims of domestic abuse

PUBLISHED: 13:04 05 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 05 March 2014

Suffolk Constabulary and partnership agencies today released details about how they continue to protect victims of high-risk domestic abuse through Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC).

Suffolk Constabulary and partnership agencies today released details about how they continue to protect victims of high-risk domestic abuse through Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC).

More resources will be made available to help victims of domestic abuse, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner has promised.

It comes after Suffolk Constabulary and partnership agencies today released details about how they continue to protect victims of high-risk domestic abuse through Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC).

A MARAC is a meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse cases between representatives of Suffolk police, health, housing, Health Outreach Services, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), probation and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.

More than 1,400 cases of domestic abuse have been referred since 2008, when the MARAC process was adopted in Suffolk.

Meetings are held monthly in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft and chaired by Detective Inspectors from the areas.

Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore said: “Domestic abuse is an area that I have huge interest in. It is imperative that, as PCC, I ensure that statutory safeguarding responsibilities are given the highest priority; so I am very pleased to support the invaluable work of the MARAC.

“Domestic abuse is a top priority in the Suffolk Police and Crime Plan and I will continue to invest in extra resources in the constabulary and in the voluntary sector through the Community Safety Fund to address this appalling crime in Suffolk.

“It is a very sad reflection on our society that domestic abuse is so prevalent and it is also very worrying that many victims suffer an average of 35 assaults before they have the confidence of report their plight, we need to work together to ensure that anyone suffering abuse has the confidence to speak out.

“The message to the perpetrators is clear, we are not prepared to tolerate this utterly unacceptable behaviour in our county.”

Detective Inspector Jim Gooding Chair of Ipswich MARAC said: “MARAC is an important meeting that over the years has seen a concerted multi-agency approach to reducing risk to victims of high-risk domestic abuse. It is evident to me though feedback that I receive and the conversations I have with our partners that MARAC makes a real difference to people’s lives.”

Referrals are made to MARAC by those who attend, although can also be referred by other agencies through a recognised referral pathway. During January 2012 to January 2014, 61% of referrals were made by The Domestic Abuse Team/ Suffolk Police, 7% from Children & Young People Services, 6% by the Health Service, 5% by Probation, 3% by Lighthouse Women’s Aid and the rest made from other organisations including the Make a Change Team, Mental Health, Anglia Care Trust and the Youth Offending Service.

Each case is presented by the referring agency, along with the reason for referral and associated risk to the victim. These factors are discussed at the meeting resulting in a specific action plan being put together to support the victim and their children.

There is an extensive list of actions that can be provided when drawing up an action plan. They may include; access to supportive programs for victims of domestic abuse, increasing security of a home, social services support, access to financial and legal advice. Often the sharing of information between agencies alone can be a useful tool in highlighting a concern and ultimately reduce the risk to the victim.

Shirley Osborne, from Suffolk County Council Community Safety Unit said: “I am part of the steering group for MARAC and I also run all the training for agencies who are going to make referrals to MARAC and are part of the process.

“It is an absolutely vital process as it involves all the agencies sitting around the table together and looking at the situation for that one victim.

“Each of those agencies can offer different levels of support for that victim. It is also essential in terms of the agencies communicating with each other, so everyone knows how they will support that specific victim.

“Each agency will see a snapshot, so if we put all of those together we get a bigger picture of the risk to provide support and protection.

“I think the ACPO week is fantastic and I’m very pleased that we are able to support it. In terms of the national picture, it gives a whole range of support and shows the importance that they put on domestic abuse. It brings everyone together gives us a focus.”

Sally Winston, chief executive of Lighthouse Women’s Aid, said: “The MARAC process is absolutely essential in supporting victims of domestic abuse who are at high risk.

“I think this week will help to achieve the continued will for good partnership working across all agencies. The issue of domestic abuse is huge and cannot be dealt with by one organisation.

“We would always say that if it is an emergency such as concern for your life and high-risk then always phone 999. If you just need support and advice, to find out if you are in an abusive relationship as you may not even realise, then there are many services out there to help such as organisations like us.”

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