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Call for MIAMs to be free following ‘embarrassing’ Government figures

NFM says collapse in mediation attendance requires government action

Government figures showing a collapse in the number of people using mediation in the past 12 months mean that 'ministers must ensure nothing is off limits as they consider how to reverse the trend', says National Family Mediation (NFM), England and Wales' largest provider of family mediation.

Mediation assessments, starts and successful agreements all plummeted in 2013/14 compared with previous years according to official figures issued this week, following cuts in legal aid introduced in April 2013.

NFM says the government should now make it free for people to attend the initial mediation awareness meeting that became compulsory for people seeking a court order from April 2014.

Jane Robey, NFM's Chief Executive, said:

"The government says it wants more people to go to mediation rather than clogging up the family courts, yet its policies of the past two years have achieved precisely the opposite. There are huge increases in the numbers of people representing themselves in courts following legal aid cuts, and now these figures show a collapse in the number of people going to mediation.

"It's an embarrassment for Government Ministers, and one they have to address if they are serious about mediation.

"With a multi-million pound underspend, Ministers could now make it free to attend the initial MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting). They could and should go further to support professional mediation and ensure it succeeds.

"Whilst Ministers will no doubt be considering extending the 'help with family mediation' scheme, which enables people eligible for legal aid to attend a free advice session with a lawyer, they should also be looking to make the first mediation session following the MIAM free too. The underspend means the money is there; hopefully the political will is too. Nothing should be off limits in Ministers' considerations."

New Ministry of Justice Figures show falls from 2012/13 to 2013/14 of 

Jane Robey added:

"Some might see it as ironic that the mediation success rate in the past year has actually risen, but that's further evidence that mediation really can work. It's now time for the government to support mediators to increase the numbers of people benefitting."

The official figures show that 79 per cent of those who started mediation reached full agreement, compared with 67 per cent the year before.