Justice Minister Simon Hughes met mediators and helpline
staff during a visit to the head office of National Family Mediation (NFM),
England and Wales’ largest provider of family mediation.
With a new government scheme to fund more free mediation
sessions set to begin on 3 November, the Minister heard how NFM expects a
further rise in demand for its family services.
Mr Hughes helped Chief Executive Jane Robey prepare some of
the charity’s information leaflets for despatch to families to help them learn
more about what family mediation can offer (see picture attached).
The new government scheme will
fund a free mediation session for both people involved in a separation even if
just one qualifies for legal aid.
'We expect demand for mediation
services to further increase during November,' said Jane Robey. 'This new scheme can help
thousands of people across England and Wales take a vital first step to unlock
an understanding of what family mediation can achieve. Mediation puts families
in control of their post-separation future instead of handing it over to clogged family courts.
It’s a much quicker, less confrontational and a more cost effective way of
settling family breakdown.'
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes
'We know mediation works and we are
committed to making sure more people use it rather than go through the
confrontational and stressful experience of court. That is why we are funding
single mediation sessions for both parties if one of them is already legally
was extremely pleased to visit NFM in Exeter and see and hear about the great
work they do in helping separating couples resolve disputes about children or
money. I was also delighted to hear that the number of people contacting their
helpline has soared since we introduced compulsory mediation in
The Minister also outlined plans to ensure children
themselves are given a far greater role in shaping arrangements that affect
their own future following a family breakdown.
'Too often post-divorce family arrangements pay scant
attention to the needs of children themselves, especially where these
arrangements are handed down by a court,” said Jane Robey. “This is one of the
main reasons the first NFM mediators, over 30 years ago, developed the practice.
We very much look forward to being involved in the Ministry of Justice’s future
plans to promote child-inclusive mediationand having the opportunity to share our unique expertise in this
During the afternoon visit (28 October) Mr Hughes met NFM
mediators and staff who answer calls on the NFM telephone helpline, demand for
which has soared during 2014. The 0300 4000 636 helpline has taken an average of
2,300 calls per month since April, when a change in the law made it compulsory
for people who are seeking a post-separation court order to first attend a
mediation awareness meeting.
Other issues covered during the meeting
- The challenges faced by mediators over the past 18 months
following changes to legal aid entitlement
- the successful ‘in-court mediation’ pilot project being run
by NFM in Herefordshire, Berkshire and West Yorkshire
- NFM’s unique ‘Gold Standard’ training and accreditation
Commenting further on the new
free mediation scheme, Jane Robey added:
'Separating people are often reluctant
to pay for family mediation, especially so when they know the other person –
their ex – is getting it for free. They rarely understand exactly what they will
be paying for and, since mediation is usually an unknown quantity, they are
unsure it will work.
Getting people into the
mediation room with open minds can be amongst the biggest challenges. Confidence
in a previously-unknown process usually blossoms as people begin to understand and accept the potential of
family mediation to help them shape their family’s future in an affordable way
and with agreements being reached in seven out of ten cases that is proof enough
that mediation works.'