Report of the Family Mediation Task Force
The Ministry of Justice has rightly been concerned by the impact of last year’s legal aid cuts to the uptake of family mediation. When cutting millions from the legal aid budget, ministers had overlooked that a significant proportion of family mediation started from solicitors with legal aid contracts for family law referring their clients to go to family mediation. the legal aid cuts removed for a vast number of people the initial type of legal aid, and so these referrals dried up. Many mediation services have been under significant pressure.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Justice set up a task force from different stakeholder organisations which it asked to advise as to how family mediation might be supported. The task force met four times and has now reported. Here is the report of the family mediation task force of June 2014
The ball is now back in the court of the Ministry of justice. there are some good recommendations. I have reproduced them below. we wait to see what will happen.
From a personal point of view out mediation practice is busy and I am on the lookout for a mediator to join our service.
Summary of Recommendations made by the Family Mediation Task Force
- We recommend that MoJ should undertake a sustained low level campaign to increase awareness.
- We welcome the consideration currently being given by MoJ to the creation of a single authoritative, lively and interactive web presence and help line.
- We urge the Government to consult with the Family Procedure Rule Committee to revise the unhelpful and archaic use of language in court forms and guidance (with particular reference to the divorce petition).
- We join all those who have urged the government now to abolish fault based divorce.
- MoJ should consider the paying for all MIAMs for a period of twelve months.
- We recommend that the fee paid to mediators for MIAMs should be increased for a fixed period of three years.
- We recommend that the LAA should fund the non-legally aided person for the first single session mediation for a period of three years.
- We recommend that the £200 settlement fee for obtaining a consent order once an agreement has been reached in mediation should be increased to £300 for financial and all issues cases only.
- We recommend that the LAA consider waiving the second eligibility test so that the initial eligibility test would continue to be valid for six weeks following initial checks by the mediator.
- We recommend that mediation should be an exempt service for the purposes of the Residence Test.
- We recommend that consideration should be given to a capital disregard for mediation cases analogous to the over 65s disregard.
- We recommend that MoJ should review the process to give clarity about the future role of assessment, SPIPs and MIAMs to build on what works and to promote inter-agency partnership working with the client as the central focus.
- We recommend that MoJ should review with the FMC by the end of this year whether and how far the McEldowney recommendations have been implemented and what further action is required.
- We recommend that the MoJ should clarify the elements of the LAA contracts with mediators that would enable it to achieve its strategic objectives.
- We believe it would be right for the Law Society and the SRA to consider whether the regulations should enable solicitors to see both parties together where they want that, for example when they have mediated.
- We recommend that options to include children should be urgently reviewed and a small, interdisciplinary group is established to improve training and supervision and registration in this area and update guidelines; and ensure that the FJYPC Charter is updated to include mediation and provide a coherent blueprint for hearing children’s voices in DR processes in future.