Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) are not helping to increase the number of people choosing mediation in family disputes, new data suggests.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the number of new mediation cases started between April and June is lower than it was during the same period last year.
There were 1,778 publicly funded new mediation cases during the three month period this year. This is down from 2,706 in 2013.
The MoJ also revealed a 27 per cent drop in legal aid funding for family law cases this year.
In 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) went into effect. This introduced mandatory MIAMs for couples seeking a divorce and cut legal aid for the majority of family law cases. The government claimed that both measures were taken to get more people to choose mediation to resolve their disputes.
Jo Edwards, chair of family law organisation Resolution, said that LASPO was not the “panacea” the government was hoping for when it was introduced. She blamed the legal aid cuts for the “huge disparity between publicly and privately funded mediation” which means that those without the means to pay for it cannot access justice.
This was not the first public criticism Edwards has made of LASPO. In April, she condemned the legal aid cuts as “devastating”.
Jane Robey, the chief executive for the charity National Family Mediation (NFM) was less negative. She said that there were reasons to be “cautiously optimistic” as NFM claims to have seen as much as a 30 to 40 per cent rise in mediation cases in some areas this year.