National Family Mediation (NFM) has published its full response to the recommendations of the Government’s Family Mediation Task Force report.
Writing to Justice Minister Simon Hughes, the charity welcomes certain measures. These include an increase in the fees paid to mediators for Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) for the next three years. A second proposal is Legal Aid Agency funding of the non-legally aided person for the first mediation session, also for the next three years.
But the NFM’s response contains seventeen responses and additional proposals. Foremost amongst them is that the Ministry of Justice undertake a sustained low level campaign to increase awareness of the benefits of mediation. However it suggests that the creation of a single web presence and help line could prove to be an imprudent use of public money. It maintains that when resources were ploughed into creating what was supposed to be a single mediator search facility on a revamped Family Mediation Council website, all unqualified private providers were listed and swathes of non-profit accredited mediators were excluded in error.
The NFM’s national telephone helpline is the single largest portal for divorced and separated people, taking over 1,400 calls per month, it claims. The organisation suggests that a small investment into its helpline would enable it to enhance its services, providing information on such issues as how to make an application to court, child maintenance arrangements, debt finance and property services, child arrangements planning, and referral to a range of emotional support services. This would keep families that do not need to be there out of the statutory system and help the government achieve its major policy objectives, the NFM claims.
The organisaton agrees with the Task Force that the Government should consult as a matter of urgency with the Family Procedure Rule Committee to revise the unhelpful and archaic use of language in court literature. The NFM also wholly supports the abolition of fault-based divorce, it declares.
On the subject of MIAMS, the NFM agreed that that the MoJ should pay for all MIAMs and that the period of free MIAMs should also be for three years.
The NFM’s full response can be reviewed here.