The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced £800,000 of additional funding for a mediation scheme introduced to help families in dispute resolve their issues away from court.
Under the scheme, launched in March, separating couples may be eligible to receive a £500 voucher towards mediation services. In eligible cases, the mediator may automatically claim back the contributions from the government.
The scheme is open to families seeking to resolve private law or financial matters relating to children – for example, child arrangement orders or financial disputes regarding children.
The funding boost almost doubles the initial £1m investment made by the government earlier this year and will help around 2000 more families. The scheme seeks to reduce pressure on the courts and help families avoid litigation, which is often lengthy and stressful.
Hundreds of people have reportedly accessed the scheme, with around 130 vouchers currently being used every week. Early data from Family Mediation Council (FMC), who administer the scheme on behalf of the government, has shown up to three-quarters of participants have reached full or partial agreement through mediation.
Courts minister, Lord Wolfson QC, said: “Hundreds of separating couples have already benefitted from this scheme – resolving their disputes without the need for an often lengthy, costly and emotionally taxing court process.
“This additional funding will allow even more families to access these services, while helping to lessen the pressure on our family courts as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Jane Kerr, an FMC accredited mediator, commented: “The mediation voucher scheme has been invaluable in providing clients with access to mediation at a time when money is tight and finances are feeling fraught. I have worked with several couples who were interested in the benefits mediation offered, however were not financially in a position to get started.
“Two cases I have worked on over the last few months have concluded successfully with positive progress and outcomes for their children. They were clear examples of families who were in crisis, amid messy separations and who left mediation on a firmer footing with regards to their co-parenting relationship and having worked out practical arrangements.”