A decision on the future of mediation vouchers designed to keep families' disputes away from court will be announced ‘in the near future’, the Ministry of Justice has said, after hailing the scheme’s success.
Marking Family Mediation Week, the ministry revealed that the scheme, introduced in March 2021, has supported more than 13,500 families, with two-thirds of cases reaching a whole or partial agreement away from court.
Families can apply for a £500 voucher towards the cost of mediation, which is usually charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid. On attending a mediation information and assessment meeting, a trained mediator assesses whether the family’s case is suitable for mediation and meets the eligibility requirements. If a case is eligible, the mediator will apply for the voucher and be paid directly once the mediation sessions have concluded.
Lord chancellor Dominic Raab said: ‘Our £8.7m investment into this landmark scheme has already helped spare thousands of families the expense and turmoil of unnecessary lengthy courtroom battles. It has also allowed the family courts to better focus on cases with serious safeguarding concerns, including domestic abuse, to keep children safer.’
The government has repeatedly topped up the scheme with more vouchers. The current scheme ends on 31 March.
Government data shows referrals for mediations nosedived after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force, narrowing the scope of legal aid for vast areas of law.
According to the ministry’s latest statistical report, MIAMs currently stand at around a third of pre-LASPO levels. Family mediation starts are around half of pre-LASPO levels.