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Mediation sees 38% drop in one year after legal aid cuts

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.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between the drop in mediation and an increase in domestic abuse allegations?? A domestic abuse allegation will secure legal aid and scupper an offer of mediation.

    It’s a self defeating policy, it’s way too tempting to throw in an allegation of domestic abuse to secure legal aid. Also, mediation is a controlled environment with professionals in support, so it makes no sense to allow minor allegations of unproven domestic abuse such as “I feel intimidated” to scupper an offer of mediation. Such allegations can be levelled at an articulate man just because he makes a strong and convincing moral case/argumnet, the other party then claims they “feel intimidated”. It’s nonsense!

  2. Arbitration: a judicially recognised alternative to the family court - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] just isn’t something most people will associate with divorce. This isn’t a surprise. As new figures show, neither is mediation, despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Justice to publicise and push the public into the […]

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