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The charity – which has already
welcomed the call for all MIAMs to be publicly funded – says the report’s
recommendation that free MIAMs should run for 12 months ought to be extended to
three years to bring it into line with the other measures.
In the response, shown in full
below, NFM also:
Urges Government to take swift action to modernise the
‘archaic’ use of language in much family court literature;
Cautions against the Government spending money on a new
website in view of its poor value-for-money record on similar initiatives of
Supports the abolition of fault-based
Looks forward to involvement in
a recommended working group to improve child-inclusive mediation: NFM services
already provide child-inclusive mediation in up to 25 per cent of cases and has
a well-established training and accreditation programme.
Mediation Task Force report: NFM response
the sake of clarity, we have provided our response to each of the Task Force’s
recommendations, addressing these in the same order in which they are listed in
the Task Force’s report:
agree the MoJ should undertake a sustained low level campaign to increase
awareness of the benefits of mediation. Early review of the changes implemented
on 22nd April show a mixed response of the Courts to the changes in
legislation and we suggest the MOJ focusses attention on ensuring Courts are
adequately trained and made aware of the new requirements.
fear the MoJ consideration of the creation of a single web presence and help
line could prove an imprudent use of public money. Our scepticism is fuelled by
the poor track record of the effectiveness of government websites generally, and
in recent times the efforts of the MoJ. For example, when resources were
ploughed into creating what was supposed to be a single mediator search facility
on a revamped FMC website, all unqualified private providers are listed and
swathes of non-profit accredited mediators were excluded in error. This has
still not been resolved. The very high cost of the Sorting Out Separation app
for meagre public interest and ROI is also a worrying
NFM national telephone helpline is the single largest portal for divorced and
separated people, taking over 1,400 calls per month. As the largest provider of
family mediation, a small investment into our helpline would enable us to
provide enhanced services that provide information about a range of divorce and
separation support services that could include: how to make an application to
court; child maintenance arrangements; debt finance and property services; child
arrangements planning, and referral to a range of emotional support services.
This would keep families that do not need to be there out of the statutory
system and help the government achieve its major policy
absolutely agree that the Government should consult with the Family Procedure
Rule Committee to revise the unhelpful and archaic use of language in court
literature. There is an urgent need to do this. We share concern at Ministerial
level that the C100 form emphasises the exemptions rather than encourages
alternatives to the court process unless, of course, the form itself is designed
as a deterrent.
wholly support abolition of fault-based divorce.
fully agree that MoJ should pay for all MIAMs, but we fear limiting this to a
period of twelve months will inhibit the ability of such an initiative to
transform the culture of divorce and separation. In view of the following two
Task Force recommendations each being for periods of three years, we believe the
period of free MIAMs should also be for three years.
agree the fee paid to mediators for MIAMs should be increased for a fixed period
of three years.
agree the LAA should fund the non-legally aided person for the first single
session mediation for a period of three years.
we agree that the £200 settlement fee for obtaining a consent order once an
agreement has been reached in mediation should be increased to £300 for
financial and all issues cases only, we believe the training of solicitors
should include much closer working with mediators. It could be argued that if
they did so, the current £200 settlement fee would be
We are unclear
about the recommendation that the LAA consider waiving the second eligibility
test so that the initial eligibility test would continue to be valid for six
weeks following initial checks by the mediator. In the current assessment
criteria the evidence has to match the date the form is signed, so it is unclear
why it is felt that two weeks would make a difference. Most people’s payment
cycles, salaries/benefit payments/ statements are made monthly, so straddling
assessment over six weeks could make the assessment process even more
We support the
recommendation that mediation should be an exempt service for the purposes of
the Residence Test
We agree that
consideration should be given to a capital disregard for mediation cases
analogous to the over 65s disregard. In supporting better outcomes for children,
we would like to see the assessment of capital disregard and allowances removed
where children are living in the family home that is the subject matter of
dispute. An alternative might be to consider introducing the statutory charge
that would make services free at the point of access with costs recoverable on
settlement in mediation through the statutory charge.
wholly agree that the MoJ should review the process to give clarity about the
future role of assessment, SPIPs and MIAMs to build on what works and to promote
inter-agency partnership working with the client as the central focus. There is
a major disconnect between SPIPs and MIAMs and this constitutes an enormous
fully agree that the MoJ should review with the FMC by the end of this year
whether and how far the McEldowney recommendations have been implemented and
what further action is required. We believe all mediators should comply with a
single standard of accreditation and that this will improve the professional
qualification and recognition of family mediators and we wholly support the
recommendations of the McEldowney report. We share many of the taskforce
concerns in this regard however only if mediation becomes a statutory service
could a completely integrated approach to standards, qualifications,
accreditation and a common charging mechanism be applied. It is naïve to
consider that we should all be working together on price fixing when we are all
in competition for our businesses.
agree the MoJ should clarify the elements of the LAA contracts with mediators
that would enable it to achieve its strategic objectives. The LAA has been
inflexible about developing service delivery options which could better meet
client need and inconsistencies around audit has led to different outcomes
depending on where a service is audited.
cautiously agree that the Law Society and the SRA should consider whether
regulations should enable solicitors to see both parties together where they
want that. We believe this might be particularly helpful where legal advice is
required on the options developed in mediation, however, the solicitor must be
able to demonstrate s/he understands what mediation can achieve, and is
supportive of mediated outcomes. At present it is far too common and far too
easy for solicitors to disregard and undermine mediated outcomes in favour of
their commercial interests
strongly disagree with the proposal to reduce the threshold for conflict of
interest and cross referral from lawyer department to mediation department
within the same firm. A fundamental precept of mediation is its independence
from the legal process whilst guiding couples through the issues to be
negotiated including legal issues. To allow this will cause a further reduction
in the take-up of mediation as one party whose legal representative is inviting
the other party to participate in mediation in his/her firm is seen as already
partisan. This reduces the scope of mediation to a mainly legal settlement-led
process whereas in independent mediation services, especially NFM services, a
range of practitioners is available to meet client need. It is common in NFM
services for the team of mediators to be drawn from a range of backgrounds
including lawyers, psychologists, social workers/ family court advisors,
therapists and financial experts.
wholly support the creation of an interdisciplinary group to improve training
and supervision and registration in child inclusive mediation. NFM already has a
child-inclusive model and our services are already providing child-inclusive
mediation in up to 25 per cent of its cases across England and Wales. We have a
well-established training and accreditation programme in this area, which
understands and addresses specific requirements for mediators who want to
undertake child-inclusive work. We would therefore welcome the opportunity to be
included in this important interdisciplinary group.