3 June 2022: The UK Government has added £5.4 million in funding to the scheme it launched in March 2021. Incentivising mediation aims to get families out of courts, wherever possible. Preliminary research from the Family Mediation Council, who run the scheme, is promising. It suggests that as many as 50% of participants would not have tried mediation without the financial incentive.
It’s a drop in the ocean compared with the funding provided for the dominant, family court system. But it’s a valuable step in the right direction. By comparison, the Government is investing £324 million over three years to improve timeliness in the civil courts and tribunals. A further £200 million will complete the £1.3 billion reforms to make the justice system quicker and more efficient.
without the stress and trauma of lengthy courtroom battles. Mediation protects childrenDominic Raab, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, UK
Dominic Raab, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, explained the £5 million plus investment this year along. It’s “to help more families to resolve their disputes without the stress and trauma of lengthy courtroom battles. Mediation protects children, by removing the bitterness of parental disputes from the amplifying effect of a courtroom.”
Yet, by incentivising mediation, the Government has given a concerning insight into the dominance of the court system. There are better, safer and less adversarial pathways for vulnerable families going through separation. Yet in 2022 it has seen a need to explain the very basics of what “mediation” is:
What is family mediation?
- Family mediation is a process in which an independent, professionally trained mediator helps parties work out arrangements for children and finances where there is a dispute.
- The mediator is not there to tell each side what to do, but can help them reach an agreement while trying to improve communication between them. They aren’t there to try and keep couples together but help them find a practical way forward after a relationship has broken down.
- Mediation allows the parties to stay in control, as no one will be forced to do or agree to anything against their wishes. Unlike in a courtroom both partners can agree to a solution rather than have a judge decide for them.
- The mediator will work with the parties, either together or separately, to help them find a solution which works for them both.
- Mediation can be less stressful than going to court, especially for children who are involved in proceedings. It is also cheaper than going through the court process, and it is also confidential unlike proceedings in the family court.
- Prior to the voucher scheme, funded mediation was only available for those who meet the financial requirements through the Legal Aid scheme.
- Agreements made in mediation can be made legally binding by a court if necessary and the legal support to do this can be offered.