Wigan Council

Multi-Agency Task and Co-ordination Group (MATAC)

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

The enduring impact on lives caused by domestic abuse is profound and devastating. Domestic abuse perpetrators are individuals who engage in harmful and controlling behaviours within intimate relationships. Their actions can encompass physical, emotional, or financial abuse, aiming to exert power and control over their victims. This can have a devastating impact on victims and children and often perpetrators can move from one family to another. Understanding the dynamics of domestic abuse requires a nuanced approach, recognising that perpetrators often exhibit complex patterns of behaviour rooted in various factors, such as learned behaviour, mental health issues, or a history of trauma. Effective intervention strategies involve addressing these root causes while holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. It is crucial to break the cycle of abuse by promoting awareness, education, and rehabilitation to foster healthier relationships and ensure the safety of those affected by domestic abuse.

The reduction of Domestic Abuse occurrences remains a high priority in the Wigan Borough. The local focus has traditionally centered on safeguarding victims, an approach that continues to be pivotal. The Multi-Agency Task and Co-ordination (MATAC) offer represent a comprehensive process designed to target the criminogenic needs of Domestic Abuse perpetrators, aligning with the national priority set by the Domestic Act 2021 and locally within our Partnership Domestic Abuse Strategy. Within this initiative, our highest repeat and highest-risk perpetrators receive interventions through a Prevention Hub key worker employing a holistic and flexible approach to proactively instigate behaviour change.

This approach integrates with a broader partnership response involving Greater Manchester Police and partners utilising disruption and enforcement tactics for non-compliant individuals. The offer of meaningful change persists alongside these tactics, adapting to support needs rather than adhering to a rigid model. The project started in November 2022. Since its inception, numerous authorities have sought our support in implementing a comparable model. They express a clear recognition of the advantages offered by this flexible, holistic approach over fixed-term, rigid programs, especially for addressing the needs of the highest repeat and most high-risk individuals.

Cohorts are determined through an 8-weekly partnership meeting, employing an innovative Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment tool (DARAT) to track progress in reducing demand and risk. The DARAT tool, developed by the Partnership, incorporates Crime/Incident data and various risk indicators for both perpetrators and linked victims, ensuring a comprehensive scoring system that identifies the appropriate cohort and tracks the journey through subsequent scoring. Other agreed factors within the scoring are; Serial offending against more than one victim, Engagement with services, Accommodation stability, Immigration status, Subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), Subject of Offender management processes, Linked forms of offending, Known current or history of access to weapons, Linked children and what stage they are at within child protection arrangements, Disability and care needs. Pregnancy or recent birth.

Concurrently, our Wigan Council Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) provide support and safety planning to current and previous victims, emphasizing victim safety before engaging with perpetrators. Victim views are regularly considered in the 8-weekly meetings, maintaining a link between victim support and perpetrator intervention throughout the MATAC life-cycle.

This process forms a collaborative approach to reduce harm and re-victimization, preserving choice, dignity, and rights while creating a breathing space for victim engagement. Employing a data-driven approach ensures that, with our comprehensive scoring system, we collaborate with the appropriate cohort at the right time, enhancing the potential for substantial change. Our distinctive commitment from key workers allows for a flexible approach that genuinely seeks to comprehend the unique needs of the cohort, intimately connected with disruption and enforcement. The project’s viability is attributed to our outstanding, well-established partnership addressing domestic abuse. All partners share a unified understanding of the direction of progress and common goals.

The MATAC initiative operates in tandem with other statutory functions such as MAPPA, aiming to complement and enhance those efforts by providing additional resources. The MATAC Process aligns with the Seven standards for Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Interventions outlined by the Home Office. Agencies to the process include – Police, IDVAs, Key workers, Adult Social Care, Childrens Social Care, Probation, Mental Health, Housing, Substance misuse service, GP alliance, ASB Team, Acute Health. 

What are the key achievements?

The project’s primary goal is to minimise harm, demand, and repeated victimisation, providing a safe space for victim engagement. After evaluating the initial four cohorts of the program, we observed a substantial 80% reduction in Domestic Abuse incidents, totalling 125 fewer cases across the cohorts, involving just 31 individuals from November 2022 to June 2023. Utilising the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Unit cost database, we determined that the average cost of a Domestic Abuse incident is approximately £3253. Consequently, the MATAC initiative resulted in a cost reduction of £406,625. These outcomes empower Greater Manchester Police to allocate resources more efficiently, addressing incoming incidents of Domestic Abuse and allowing for crucial engagement with victims, ultimately reducing risks for victims.

An illustrative case study involves a male who, through intensive work with a key worker, addressed underlying needs contributing to Domestic Abuse behaviours. This intervention led to the male experiencing no Police incidents eight weeks after MATAC. Key areas of intervention included Substance Misuse, where the male accepted support; Homelessness, where the key worker facilitated stable accommodation and a furniture package; and Behaviour Change, enabling the male to confidently access longer-term programs, such as a Domestic Abuse perpetrator program for sustained change which he later enrolled onto. This case study exemplifies how assessing needs can pave the way for lasting positive change.

Another illustration of the effectiveness of an open and innovative approach occurred when a key worker visited the residence of a MATAC case. The individual had recently moved in with a family member due to bail conditions preventing contact with their partner, predating their identification in the MATAC cohort. During this visit, the individual was not present, but the family member was. Leveraging the key worker’s experience, a sense of concern about the family member’s demeanour emerged. Through an open conversation, built on trust and rapport, the key worker successfully built trust so that the family member felt safe to disclose that they were also a victim of abuse by the perpetrator.

This revelation led to a comprehensive disclosure to the police, immediate safeguarding of the family member, and the subsequent arrest of the perpetrator. This instance underscores the capacity of perpetrators to transition from one victim to another, emphasising the critical need for supplementary professional intervention in safeguarding. The revelation might not have occurred without the key worker’s adept recognition of concerns. It also demonstrates the family-focused nature of the key worker approach, emphasising a comprehensive examination of the entire situation rather than solely focusing on the individual they are assisting. 

How Innovative is your initiative?

The project introduces an innovative, collaborative approach involving multiple agencies to engage with perpetrators and promote behaviour change. Unlike many existing perpetrator interventions in the UK, often hindered by rigid programs, our holistic key worker approach assigns an individual to comprehend the unique needs of perpetrators. This includes identifying factors contributing to offending behaviour, such as substance misuse, adverse childhood experiences, mental health issues, and financial stressors. By identifying these factors, MATAC can implement a key worker approach to engage with perpetrators in a flexible manor.

Through a multi-agency forum, we eliminate barriers to service access, ensuring a timely response to meet changing needs, while also taking enforcement and disruption actions when necessary. We can also examine past intervention history, understanding what was effective, the reasons behind this, and what strategies were unsuccessful. This enables us to tailor and incorporate new approaches accordingly. The MATAC Initiative aligns with criminal justice outcomes, demonstrating proactive support even if not immediately accepted, leading to improved remand and sentencing outcomes. Departing from the conventional fixed behaviour change programs, the MATAC approach accommodates flexibility based on identified support needs. Initiated by the partnership, MATAC mitigates risk for victims, providing a clear process where the partnership identifies the need for change. Working closely with the police and partners broadens disruption and enforcement opportunities, creating crucial ‘breathing space’ for victims to access support via our parallel offer from Independent Domestic Violence Advisers.

The partnership strategically reduced costs by leveraging existing provisions, utilising the skilled key workers from Wigan Council Prevention Hub and establishing a dedicated partnership team supported by a full-time Police officer. This innovative project redefines existing teams’ roles, demonstrating success through demand reduction and resource realignment, ultimately minimising overall MATAC cohort demands and reducing risk for victims. Emily Higham, Chief Superintendent, Wigan Divisional Commander, and Chair of the Wigan Borough Domestic Abuse Oversight Board states; “This process is not only innovative but is helping protect the most vulnerable victims of Domestic Abuse., through a two pronged approach of support to the perpetrators but enforcement if they do not take up the offer of support. It shows how Wigan can come together to solve a problem, and work as team to achieve the same goals, by excellent partnership working” 

What are the key learning points?

Throughout our MATAC journey, a pivotal insight has emerged. The paramount value lies in the ability to support perpetrators based on individual needs rather than adhering to standardised programs. Many of our most high-risk repeat offenders lead chaotic lives, making engagement challenging without initial tailored support. As mentioned earlier, our interventions have shown that criminal justice outcomes can be enhanced when coupled with flexible engagement strategies, allowing room for meaningful change alongside the ability to demonstrate to the courts the offers given.

We’ve extended our MATAC offering across the Greater Manchester region, taking part in events for both Police leads and local authority Domestic Abuse coordinators. Greater Manchester has subsequently invested funding in each of the 10 areas to utilise the innovative MATAC approach. Outreach efforts have reached beyond, with inquiries from various UK regions, even as far as Jersey. To facilitate the adoption of our approach, we’ve crafted a MATAC toolkit and protocol, open for sharing with other regions interested in our process. Key among our lessons learned is the indispensable role of partnerships – without securing buy-in from essential collaborators, the program would not thrive. It’s evident that a universal approach doesn’t suit every scheme of this nature. The promotion of the program requires continual and thorough efforts, with prompt and efficient resolution of any arising issues at the outset. This ensures ongoing staff engagement and upholds the scheme’s reputation.

A crucial lesson learned involves the timing of information dissemination for more effective discussions during the 8-weekly meetings. Partners highlighted the importance of receiving information earlier in the process, enabling them to bring relevant insights and proactively research past intervention efforts. Another learning point pertained to identifying the right cohort. Recognising that incident and crime data alone might not pinpoint individuals where the most substantial impact could be made in terms of reducing risk and demand, we organised an event with the partnership. Drawing on collective experience, we developed a scoring system that considered the characteristics of both perpetrators and victims, aiming to identify the optimal cohort. To validate this, the scoring system underwent scrutiny from front line staff experienced in domestic abuse and our lived experience group, resulting in the creation of the DARAT risk assessment tool. Currently under consideration for adoption by Greater Manchester Police, this tool enhances the precision of identifying high-impact cases.

Lastly, a critical step involved sharing our delivery model with the Local Domestic Abuse Experts by Experience group. This passionate group, comprised of individuals who have lived through Domestic Abuse, provided valuable insights that shaped the design of our program.