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Undertaking a risk and needs assessment

Undertaking a risk and needs assessment

When someone is suffering domestic abuse, it’s important to make an accurate and fast assessment of the danger they're in, so they can get the right help, as quickly as possible.

This process is often called risk identification or risk assessment and should be common practice.  

This section applies only to those working within domestic abuse.  Risk assessment in relation to other forms of violence against women is less well developed and there are few widely available tools or work processes available at the current time.  

What is risk identification?

Risk identification often includes asking a victim of domestic abuse a series of questions to help understand what they have been dealing with and the risks they are facing. Often these questions are listed on a simple paper tool or checklist to ensure the professional considers all of the important information and doesn’t miss anything which evidence suggests should be asked about.

Risk Assessment tools

The most commonly used risk identification tool in Wales is the Dash risk checklist (External link)

Dash stands for Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour based violence.

This checklist contains 24 questions and can be used for all intimate partner relationships, including LGBT relationships, as well as for ’honour’-based violence and family violence. This checklist is used by specialist professionals across Wales, on the Live Fear Free Helpline, by many of those working in Social Care, Housing, Midwifery, Health visiting and other parts of the Public Service. There is a specific police version of the risk checklist, which is used by most police forces in England and Wales.

Why use a risk checklist?

Whether you are a specialist professional who works only with victims of domestic abuse or you work in a role where you meet victims of this issue as part of your job – for example in mental health, social care or health visiting, there are important reasons to ensure your client has the opportunity to complete a risk checklist – either with you or with a specialist  partner agency:

  • Once the risks the client is facing are clearer, work can begin to try and mitigate or remove these risks to improve the overall safety of the victims and their children.
  • It will help identify cases which are “high risk”. This refers to the risk of the victim being seriously injured or killed by their abusive partner. If these cases can be identified earlier, deaths can be prevented.
  • Because the risk checklist is used by so many agencies completion of the form will also help partner agencies understand the help the client needs and how quickly they need to act.
  • The risk checklist forms part of the referral criteria for the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) process. There is at least one MARAC in every local authority in Wales, providing a multi agency response to those at high risk.

However completion of a checklist does not form a full assessment of someone’s risk or need. It helps identify how many of the commonly known risk factors your client is experiencing but it is important that the work doesn’t end there. The client’s individual situation must be taken into account, as must anything specific about the perpetrator. There may be health needs, housing issues or other, more holistic requirements which impact the victims requirements, hopes and feelings, risk and ability to access services.  

A strong assessment of someone’s risk and need should include consideration of all of these factors and should be done by a specialist worker. However this work will likely be influenced by initial risk identification undertaken by professionals within the public service and partnership in this regard is key.

Anyone you complete a risk identification checklist with should be offered services based on their particular situation.

Training on risk identification and multi agency work is available across Wales. A unit on this is accredited and available through the Specialist Subject Syllabus as part of the National Training Framework on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Policies & Guidance

Find relevant guidance and information on the VAWDASV Act.

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About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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