The family mediation voucher scheme launched earlier this year has already helped more than 8,400 families. Today the Ministry of Justice announced further investment which will double this total to help 10,200 more families access regulated family mediation to work out arrangements for children and finances after a relationship breakdown. This is a great result which is testament to the benefits of mediation and shows that the government recognises the value that the scheme can bring to families who need support and are struggling with difficult decisions.
The scheme, which is run by the Family Mediation Council (FMC), gives eligible families a financial contribution of up to PS500 towards their overall costs of family mediation. Only FMC accredited mediators are able to provide this service. Clients need to be aware that they may be able to claim legal aid for their mediation and that they must inform their mediator if this is the case.
FMC has been monitoring the impact of the scheme since it was first introduced and early results suggest that it is making a real difference. Preliminary research shows that of the first 2,800 completed cases referred to mediation, 65 percent reached a full or partial agreement away from court. This is a very positive result which is a clear indication that mediation can offer significant benefits for couples who are separating and in particular, can help protect children by avoiding the bitterness of costly and acrimonious courtroom battles.
Although the vouchers can’t be used for the initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or for drafting of any documentation, they can cover the cost of most of the rest of the mediation which helps couples reach a lasting agreement. The vouchers can also be used to help give children a voice in the mediation process by providing child-inclusive mediation.
The vouchers are not means tested and they can be used in conjunction with legal aid if this is available to the couple. In fact, the scheme is designed to encourage couples who may be able to get legal aid to mediate rather than go to court. The scheme is expected to last until March 2023.
As a professional, I am delighted that the voucher scheme has been extended and that more and more families will have the opportunity to make use of this valuable resource. I hope that this is just the start of a more permanent drive to promote the merits of mediation as a way for families to resolve disputes without having to endure the often traumatic, expensive and stressful process of going to court.
If you or your clients have any questions about the voucher scheme or how to apply for it, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Both Jayne and Laura here at Trethowans are FMC accredited family mediators and both can assist with voucher applications if necessary. It is important to remember that, if you or your clients are eligible, the voucher can only be used once. After your mediation is complete, you will be asked to complete a short questionnaire for monitoring purposes by the FMC.