26 NOV 2014
Mediation Matters: As storm clouds gather, you need faith in those you employ
This National Family Mediation article was written to coincide with Resolution's third Family Dispute Resolution Week, running from 24–28 November 2014.
This awareness-raising week aims to highlight the alternatives to court for separating couples and their families. Support the campaign on Twitter using #abetterway #ResolutionWeek and #familylaw
a few weeks away from the introduction of a compulsory accreditation scheme
which all family mediators will have to work towards if they’re to sell their
services to the public.
reading this would contest that family mediation is increasingly important in
the resolution of family disputes. So news of Government funding that will
enable this key accreditation process to be undertaken is most welcome. The new
system promises to be positive, not just for separating couples and taxpayers,
but for the profession, too. It might also be an overdue one.
Back in the
early 1980s the very first family mediators began to shape not just the
organisation that became National Family Mediation (NFM), but the process and
practice of mediation itself. They passionately believed it could combat the
stress of divorce by helping couples extract a liveable future for themselves
and their children.
Noel Timms once wrote that a new social practice takes 30 years to be
established. And so it is that, some 30 years on, something that might well
have figured on the wish-list of the first NFM practitioners who gave birth to
family mediation is about to come into being.
Mediation Council (FMC) has been charged with responsibility to make it happen.
At long last we are moving towards a new transparent single professional
standard which all mediators will have to work towards. With central
funding, the FMC is about to establish a separate Family Mediation Standards
Board to monitor and regulate standards operating in the profession.
Recruitment of Board members should begin before Christmas, with standards
defined and shared with practicing mediators early next year.
The reforms follow recommendations made by the Family Mediation Task
Force, set up by Simon Hughes soon after his appointment to the role a year
ago. After the compulsory MIAM and the first mediation session now being funded
where just one party qualifies for legal aid, this is the third stage in the
government’s action plan to improve mediation and encourage separating couples
to use it.
funding to ensure robust accreditation of this out-of-court settlement route
represents a modest but wise public investment. It’s not just the public
confidence it will encourage, but the financial savings it can enable as well.
breakdown is said to cost the economy £46 billion per year, of which it is
estimated nearly £8 billion is directly connected to issues that a more
effective route into out-of-court dispute resolution services could alleviate.
This equates to a cost of well over £20,000 for each of the 350,000 families
reckoned to break up each year. More people trusting mediation means more
people pursuing it, saving money all round, as well as time and stress.
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to be good for professionals too. Mediators’ expertise and qualifications will
be recognised and their accreditation should add real value to the offer they
make to those looking to mediate settlements.
won’t be universal praise for the initiative. Last week I was speaking to a
client who had been struggling for months to settle some difficult child access
issues. He told me he’d been to mediation but that the process didn’t work, and
he still wasn’t seeing his child. When we investigated, it emerged the outfit
that had been selling him so-called ‘mediation’ were actually doing something
entirely different; not genuine mediation at all. And there will be others who
lack skills and qualifications but who might be thinking of setting themselves
up as ‘mediators’. Quacks rarely add value in any sphere.
transparent regulation of mediation, the public will know where to look for the
right qualifications before they commit.
a lot these past few weeks and, looking for a roofer, a colleague was struck
last week by the wide range in prices being quoted, and the difference in
expertise and diagnoses offered by those who arrived to survey the damage.
Which roofer do you trust with your money and the durability of your home?
separation may be a world away from a few broken roof tiles, yet there are
essential similarities too. Who’s qualified to detect what knock-on effects
there will be … on the felt, the lead, the attic beams and so on. And who’s
best-placed to find lasting solutions that mean when the next rainstorm hits,
the very same problem doesn’t just re-occur?
post-Christmas rise in divorce and separation looming, more dark, threatening
clouds are gathering for children and families up and down the land as you read
Will they know
which way to turn when they want to seek an alternative to the family court
assurance is a vital part of the decision, whether it’s a roofer, a car
mechanic, so why not a dispute resolution expert? Most of us know what industry
standards look like for these other professions. Why should it be different for
other specialist services?
the end of the day, when the storm breaks, you need to know you can count on