Developing Together Social Work  Teaching Partnership

Blog Post: Academic Shadowing of mini-MARAC in Sutton


By Dermot Brady, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Kingston University

In social work generally, and in Children and Families contexts in particular, domestic abuse is a significant presenting issue. We know that a large number of initial referrals and Serious Case Reviews feature domestic abuse. We also know that there are procedural and relational complexities to doing this work well. This provides the background to some interesting and innovative practice at our partner agency the London Borough of Sutton recently.

One of the Teaching Partnership work streams is “Academics in Practice”. The idea here is that we ensure that “practice across our region is consistently informed by theory and research and that academics’ teaching is equally informed by practice”. We are undertaking a number of research projects, stemming from proposals put forward by partner agencies, and you will be hearing more about those as they develop. I have a long-standing interest in domestic abuse so was more than happy to take the opportunity to observe the Sutton Mini-MARAC, which had been brought to my attention by Karen Walls, who is the Specialist Safeguarding Lead for domestic abuse in Sutton.

Good inter-agency practice is vital to ensure good safeguarding outcomes for children and families, but it is easier said than done. Sutton reviewed their procedures in relation to MARAC cases and noticed a gap in the management of provision; while high risk cases were being identified, tracking their progress was not the responsibility of any single team or agency. When responsibilities become diffused in this way it is more likely that vital information sharing and action can be missed. You really should read my colleague Rick Hood’s book, “Complexity in Social Work” if you would like to explore these themes more generally.

The mini-MARAC has representatives from children’s services, health, education, early help and the local Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVA) service. What impressed me was the breadth and depth of knowledge in the room of how services operate locally, and in particular how they tracked cases even when the responsibility was passed on to other Local Authorities (LAs). In an attempt to capture this practice, we hope to conduct an Appreciative Inquiry with all concerned. An Appreciative Inquiry is a particular research approach that aims to recognise what is working well, what has enabled this to happen and what would contribute to its improvement. Hopefully, by doing this we can bring both strands of the Academics in Practice workstream together.

We would welcome more suggestions from the field. Are there examples of excellent practice in your agency that would be good to share? If so, you can get in touch with the Teaching Partnership team at or contact Dermot at