New figures from the Ministry of Justice show that less people are using mediation – despite backing by the government.
National Family Mediation (NFM), the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales, has called for the government to consider providing initial mediation awareness meetings (MIAM’s) for free.
Earlier this year it became compulsory for people seeking a family court order to attend a MIAM.
Under the new scheme, those applying for a court order about a child or financial matter must first attend sessions with an expert. If a couple reaches an agreement that they are both happy with, they are then able to apply to the court to have their agreement made into a binding court order, ensuring stability for their family in the future.
However, the new figures show despite the government’s actions, disappointingly low numbers of people are taking part in mediation and that there has been a drop in participation mediaition in the last year.
MoJ figures show that the number of people using mediation services has seen a significant decline with a drop of 56 per cent for mediation assessments, 38 per cent for mediation ‘starts’ and 27 per cent in final agreements over the last 12 months.
However, it was not all bad news. The figures also showed that the mediations that had taken place in the last 12 months were more successful, with 79 per cent of those who started mediation reaching a full agreement, compared with 67 per cent the year before.
Government must be open to new ideas and “nothing should be off limits” says NFM’s Chief Executive, Jane Robey
“The government says it wants more people to go to mediation rather than clogging up the family courts, yet its policies of the past two years have achieved precisely the opposite,” said NFM’s chief executive, Jane Robey, speaking to the Solicitor’s Journal.
“It’s an embarrassment for government ministers, and one they have to address if they are serious about mediation. With a multimillion-pound underspend, ministers could now make it free to attend the initial MIAM. They could and should go further to support professional mediation and ensure it succeeds.
“While ministers will no doubt be considering extending the ‘help with family mediation’ scheme, which enables people eligible for legal aid to attend a free advice session with a lawyer, they should also be looking to make the first mediation session following the MIAM free too. The underspend means the money is there, hopefully the political will is too. Nothing should be off limits in ministers’ considerations.”