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The Ministry of Justice has announced its new online mediation directory, which will go live on 1 October 2011. It will replace the National Mediation Helpline (NMH), which is due to close on 30 September.
The new service is a searchable directory of civil and commercial mediation providers and access will be through www.justice.gov.uk, with links on the Directgov and Businesslink websites.
High running costs and falling numbers of relevant calls to the NMH were among the factors leading to its closure. The current helpline costs approximately £90k a year to run, but approximately two-thirds of calls received are to request contact details of a particular court, information about small claims mediation or other non-mediation subjects.
The new mediation directory will not have a central telephone number and the onus will be on individuals to use the mediation directory to source their own mediation provider, thereby allowing greater choice and enabling parties to choose mediators to suit their cases. Courts will refer parties to the directory to search for a mediation provider of their own choosing.
All mediation providers listed on the directory will be accredited by the Civil Mediation Council.
It is not yet clear how parties who do not have access to the internet will access the directory. However, it is envisaged that a service will be provided via the HMCS contact centre, which is being established as part of the courts modernisation process. The MoJ is also examining the possibility of making a paper copy of the directory available in each court.