The number of mediation cases has dropped by 38 per cent in the single year since legal aid cuts came into effect, new statistics have revealed.
The government hoped the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) would encourage more people to choose mediation over taking their dispute before the courts, but it appears to have had the opposite effect.
The cuts to legal aid resulted in a noticeable increase in people representing themselves in family disputes. With so many people going without legal representation, there are fewer people being encouraged to seek mediation as an alternative.
According to newly published Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics, 13,609 cases of mediation were started in the last year before the new rules came into effect. That number dropped to 8,400 in the year since the introduction of LASPO.
As a result of such a drop, the MoJ has underspent on family mediation for the year by £16.8 million.
Family mediation cost the MoJ £14.3 million before LASPO. Since its introduction, that has fallen to £7.5 million – almost half what it was. Additionally, the government had set aside an extra £10 million in anticipation of a higher number of people choosing mediation.
The statistics also revealed that, despite the large drop in cases of mediation, the cases which did go ahead were very successful.
Over three quarters of mediation cases, 79 per cent, led to an agreement being reached, which is a ten per cent improvement over the previous year.
Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) were introduced prior to LASPO as a way of encouraging people going through a divorce to seek mediation. Last year, 44 per cent of them resulted in mediation being attempted. This number rose to 63 percent this year.
An argument could be made that the drop in mediation is linked to the drop in court cases over the last year.
Recent data from the Office of National Statistics has also shown a rise in unmarried couples living together. It seems that people are dropping off the radar. Could it be that people do not trust mediation and now don’t trust the courts? The thought is rather disturbing.