Over the last 12 months there has been so much emphasis on mediation, the benefits of mediation for helping you to resolve family disputes and in particular keeping your children issues away from the court. For many years now the courts, Government and research have all supported and promoted mediation as a more personalised and better way of addressing family fall outs with recent judicial judgements stating ” do not bring your child disputes to this court unless you have to” .
Of course as a mediator I absolutely support and condone this and see the benefits of the mediation process first hand with all of the clients I help but often an obstacle to mediation is cost. Whilst legal aid is available to those who qualify , this does not cover both participants costs. It does entitle you both to a free Initial Pre Mediation MIAMs meet and will cover the costs of any first session. Thereafter however, if you don’t qualify for legal aid then you will have to pay for any on going meets. On average mediation takes around 3 sessions to resolve all matters and consequently it is more likely than not that there would be on going costs.
Sadly there are those who simply cannot afford this. If they then were to represent themselves through a court process then the only cost to them is limited to the court fee and they are guaranteed an outcome. It is hard to financially compete with this despite mediation often being the better and preferred option. The courts and Government have been aware of these financial constraints. The last 12 months during lockdown has also seen dramatic increases in court applications with many courts being at breaking point and a recent report from the Family Solutions Group ” What about me” describes our courts at ” crisis” point and this not being an exaggeration!
To try and facilitate better options for families the Government on 26th March 2021 introduced the Mediation Voucher scheme. This will contribute up to £500 towards mediation costs. It is not means assessed. However it will only apply to those matters relating to children issues or financial disputes where children arrangements also need to be considered. It does not apply to the initial pre mediation meet ie the MIAMs which could cost you in the region of £100 plus VAT but that may be your only lay out financially, a far removed position from what was described above.
This is a great scheme and a time where the Government is investing funds in an area purely to help families get this right for their children, putting their money where their mouth is so to speak!
How do I know if I qualify for the scheme?
The mediator will assess you at the MIAMs meet and confirm this for you. If you are eligible then the mediator will do everything on your behalf to claim the vouchers for you.
What do I have to do to take part in the scheme?
You will be asked to confirm that you have:
asked the mediator to apply for the voucher
not already applied for another voucher as part of the same scheme
given consent to your mediator providing your necessary information to the Family Mediation Council. This includes your name, the bill for mediation services you receive from the mediator and some basic information about your case.
However again, the mediator will provide you with all of the forms necessary for you to sign.
You will also be asked to complete a short monitoring questionnaire. Completing this is optional. Your mediator will be required to provide some information about your case, such as whether you reach an agreement and whether you ask the court to formalise an agreement. The data provided will be anonymised before being used to provide information about the way in which the voucher scheme and the mediation services were used. We do however hope that you would complete this form to help support and promote the scheme for others.
An unlimited fund has not been set aside for this project. We are told that the government is securing £1 million but it is uncertain as to whether or not this may be extended. We are hopeful we will be able to demonstrate the scheme is a success and that further funds will become available once these have been depleted but we will need your help to achieve this.
If you would like to understand more about this scheme or to arrange a consultation with one of the team you can use our online booking facility here
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