Archive for July, 2012

July 27, 2012

What have standard bed charts in hospital and MARAC got in common?

This blog post may not be immediately catchy and appealing as it deals with forms, recording, and consistency.  But it is important – so please read on….

There was a lot of attention in the news this morning about the need for standard records to be used in hospital to record a patient’s vital signs, with the suggestion that 6,000 lives a year could be saved by this simple step.

We couldn’t save 6,000 lives if everyone used the standard MARAC forms that already exist  (see  but we could be much more confident of getting the full picture of a victim’s experience and the risks that they face if everyone used them.  If you aren’t using them at your MARAC, please let me know why not.  This is still the most likely place that we can get the full picture of risk, and where we have the most options to safety plan in a coordinated way.

It may sound a bit dull but almost every time we hear of a serious case review or homicide review, the same things come up about not seeing the whole picture.  Getting some simple basic things right can change that for adult and child victims alike.

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July 22, 2012

Leading Lights Lunch – 2

About six months ago, we held the first working lunch for the managers of the Leading Lights accredited IDVA services.  It was an experiment based on your feedback, that it would be a good idea to bring service managers together, to share their experiences, hear about each other’s plans, and feed in to shaping CAADA’s plans.  I wrote at the time about how energising and uplifting it was to be in the same room with a group of such committed and competent people.  Everyone agreed that we had all benefited from the time together and that we should meet again in 6 months.

So this week, we had LL2 – the sequel….and it was as good, if not better than LL1.  There were four official things on the agenda – an update from CAADA (including an introduction to our new Director of Services, Christine Christie), contributions from two of the managers present, and an outside speaker to give us all a better picture of how the Police and Crime Commissioners will work in practice.  There were lots of contributions from all who attended.

Christine focused mainly on the launch of the revised MARAC programme (see my last post for more on this) and I talked a bit about some of the policy work that we are involved with.  I also mentioned our National Dataset report which will be launched in the autumn, and will include information from the Insights data that we collect.  We are really hopeful that this will have some strong policy and practice messages which will be relevant to practitioners, managers, and of course commissioners.  We also discussed the new Ofsted consultation about multi agency inspections of Safeguarding arrangements, which includes a proposal that the MARAC should be inspected.  I will write more about this in a future post, but suffice to say that in combination with the Domestic Homicide Reviews, we believe that this represents a helpful and important lever to help ensure that the quality of MARAC work is as high as possible.

Becky Rogerson, Director of My Sister’s Place in Middlesbrough ( ) gave us a fascinating presentation about her trip around North, Central and South America as part of her research as a Winston Churchill fellow.  You can read the whole report here  Personally, my ability to take in the whole thing was slightly hampered by my jealousy at having such a great opportunity!  It was really interesting to hear about the differences in approach both between individual States, the role of the IDVA (or equivalent), the availability of perpetrator work and the simply the amount of resource in the US compared to the UK.  We have a way to go.  Conversely of course, central and south America highlighted a complete lack of resource in every sense and quite different relationships with the police and courts.  Absence of electricity, cars and perhaps most importantly trust, acted as a big barrier to getting help.  However, Becky did highlight the strength of more grass roots women’s initiatives which perhaps we have lost in some ways.

Caitlyn McCarthy, who manages learning and development at the Worth Project in West Sussex talked about the important work that she has led in relation to two projects.  The first is the 2020 Think Tank (see ) which has been a two year project to set the vision, strategy and action plan for domestic and sexual violence services for West Sussex.  Caitlyn talked about the time it had taken to get everyone’s buy in to the importance of setting a common set of goals and objectives – but by now there are literally hundreds of signatories for all agencies across the county and the project has uncovered both new approaches, and the existence of more resources to support victims of both forms of abuse – both adults and children.  It was instructive since so many of us are struggling to get domestic abuse given the importance it warrants in local strategies.

Caitlyn also talked about the new questions we have been working on to use with mothers to establish any additional needs of their children which some of her colleagues have been piloting.  The aim of this is to be used across disciplines (DV, mental health, substance misuse) as an early identification tool to highlight children at risk of harm.  The reality is that asking these questions is time consuming and practitioners need to be very clear about who the support agencies are in their area to whom they can make referrals for the children before starting.  However, the feedback overall was that almost all the mothers in the initial small sample welcomed being asked and felt that it cemented their relationship with their IDVA, as well as identifying a group of children who were getting no support and who needed it.  We hope to pilot this formally but would like to make sure we capture the information in a robust way – so just need time to think that bit through.

Finally, Linda Pizani-Williams from CLINKS came and spoke about the role of the Police and Crime Commissioners.  They will obviously be very important for all of us going forward and she set out clearly the extent of their remit and gave resources which you can find at

So a real mixture of inputs.  I think I am fair in saying that just as valuable as the formal parts of the meeting, are the informal ones and the networking between everyone.  To all of you, especially our speakers and those of you how crossed half the country to be there, thank you.

July 15, 2012

Outnumbered….working with MARACs this year

We recently finalised our plans for working with all 260 MARACs across England and Wales this year.  We do feel a bit outnumbered – 260 MARACs, over 55,000 adult cases and 75,000 children’s cases heard annually and a mighty CAADA team of 5 MARAC development officers based around England and Wales – each supporting about 50 MARACs.  A challenge?  Of course.

So how will we make it work? Our plan is to make the most of our assets which we think include:

a)     a full time focus on MARAC activity and information – agency representatives are engaged with their ‘day jobs’,

b)     an overview position – developed from engaging with MARACs across the region and country,

c)      reach – which enables us to disseminate learning points, models of good practice and outcomes to all the MARACs, and

d)     influence – in being able to channel upwards to Government consolidated MARAC information from across the country

Each MARAC Development Officer (MDO in CAADA-speak) will work in several different ways with the MARACs in their region.  Firstly, they will each have a specific time-limited project which can be shared for all MARACs to learn from e.g. reviewing the challenges & successes of referrals for disabled victims and/or minority ethnic victims.  They will also visit the MARACs in their region, and support some in the use of the new CAADA self assessment tool which is currently being piloted.  (Thank you to those MARACs who are part of this pilot).  All will continue to have access to our workshops for IDVAs, Coordinators and Chairs in their region as well as the option of working directly with the MDO on specific issues either arising from practice or policy.

All of this will be complimented by our continued commitment to the use of data to inform this work.  You will be aware of our recent outcome analysis, looking at police data for 350 cases at 15 different MARACs for 12 months pre and post MARAC.  We are now working to develop this further both by extending the number of MARACs where we do the analysis and by adding more agencies to the outcome analysis.  Our MARAC help desk ( ) is available for all practitioners to use.  If we don’t have the answer, we usually can find someone who does. Finally, we hope you have noticed the best practice examples that we are including in our e-newsletter.  These will continue, so please tell us if you feel you are doing something particularly well at your MARAC.  We are also exploring social media as a way of linking MARAC practitioners…but I am not sure that is official yet so I had better stop there!

For more information about the programme, do go to our website at

And do please share your best ideas….and if anyone has the answer to rising volume, and complex repeat cases, we would love to hear from you!

July 12, 2012

Celebrating Success with WRSAC

I am just trundling back on the train from a great day in Cornwall – not a great day in terms of weather of course – but a great day in terms of celebrating with the WRSAC staff, volunteers, trustees, partners and friends, their triumph at the Glaxo Smith Kline Impact Awards – which if you haven’t read the news…THEY WON…beating over 400 other entrants.

You can watch a short video about their work at

Travelling to and fro from Cornwall involves a long train journey, so is giving me plenty of time to think about what makes a great domestic and sexual violence service.  I think it comes down to three things: the quality of the people, the quality of the partnership and the clarity about the goals  they are working towards.  WRSAC felt like a stick of rock to me – it didn’t matter where you cut it, there was a consistency in the quiet, approachable, professionalism of the team which was striking.  A number of the partners spoke at the meeting from the police, local authority, health and probation (I have probably forgotten someone).  There were one or two we would like to clone…but leaving that aside, the key thing that came through was a common purpose – and that obviously reflects years of hard work to build.  Finally, there is no doubting the charity’s commitment to the women and children they support.  Whether in the hospital where there are two IDVAs, or among the rest of the wider team, volunteers and trustees – everyone was focused on ensuring that women and children in Cornwall are given a chance to get to a position of safety and self respect.  I am not surprised that they won.

In a climate where there is so much focus on value for money, I hope commissioners recognise the added value that the combination of these factors brings both in human and financial terms.  I think that in those places where these three things exist, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts and one tampers with it at one’s peril.

July 1, 2012

End of the Year

For reasons best known just to me, CAADA’s year end is on 30th June so today is the first day of our new financial year and I thought it might be a moment to reflect on the past year and think about the one ahead.

Last year’s blog was dominated by the acronym LASPO – or in shorthand, the Legal Aid Bill.  The proposals to remove legal aid for private law family cases except in cases of domestic abuse led to a passionate campaign to prevent this happening and to be sure that that all victims of domestic abuse would indeed be eligible.  Some progress was made in terms of the definition of domestic abuse but ultimately the Bill became the Act and from next year legal aid will no longer be available in the vast majority of these cases despite our, and others, protestations about the risk that this poses to children.  Gloomy stuff.

On a much happier note, the law is being changed in relation to the treatment of stalking – recognition of the extraordinary campaign of several families and charities whose lives have been tragically affected by a stalker.  This seems a refreshing dose of common sense and has the potential to bring much stricter sanctions, and therapeutic help where appropriate, to those who inflict such fear and danger on people’s lives.

Closer to home, we welcomed over 10 new Leading Lights accredited services – great recognition of the hard work that have put in to achieve safe and effective provision for their clients, partner agencies and staff.  We launched three new Continuing Professional Development modules to complement our IDVA Foundation training, covering Safeguarding, Substance Misuse and Sexual Violence – one of which involved our first partnership with Action on Addiction.  We have launched the Themis programme to try and build a stronger hospital based IDVA response, with an evaluation to support it. We have piloted and are now rolling out regional support for MARACs all around the country and have started more in depth outcome analysis for MARACs, in addition to our ‘normal’ data collection – which now shows over 55,000 cases being heard at a MARAC in the past 12 months, including 75,000 children. Last but not least, we have made great strides in collecting and analysing the work of almost 100 practitioners across all disciplines (IDVA, outreach, children’s and young people’s workers, helpline, etc).  I am not allowed to talk about the findings yet….but we will be publishing them in September and they are really exciting!

2011-12 was the toughest year since CAADA was founded in 2005.  However, there remain a great bunch of people – both inside CAADA and outside – whose dedication to addressing domestic abuse remains unstinting.  A week does not go by without someone getting in touch to talk about a new idea, or with feedback about how things are working on the ground.  So in the face of huge challenges, we remain resolutely optimistic that we can push quietly on towards our goals of halving the number of high risk victims of domestic abuse and halving the time it takes for them to get effective help.