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What is Mediation

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of resolving misunderstandings, disputes and conflicts by a process of discussion and negotiation between the parties involved. The process is managed by a Mediator who is independent and neutral.  The Mediator helps the parties to identify, explore and analyse the issues affecting them and to find practical solutions that will resolve the problems they are experiencing.

Do I have to get involved in Mediation?

No. Mediation is a voluntary process and both sides must participate in order for mediation to succeed. Mediation is an alternative to traditional methods of resolving disputes, such as involving the police, or going to court. However, mediation offers considerable advantages: It is quicker, cheaper and usually much more effective.

What does the Mediator do?

The Mediator acts as an intermediary who assists the parties to have a constructive dialogue and to negotiate, even though they might otherwise feel unable to talk to each other. The Mediator helps each party to identify and understand both sides of the argument and to discover all of the issues that affect the situation (including issues that one party might have been unaware of). The Mediator then helps the parties to find common ground, and points on which they can agree to differ, and to reach an agreement on how to resolve the problems affecting them.

Where and how does it happen?

We normally mediate in pairs – The team consists of a Lead Mediator and a Co-Mediator. The Mediators will normally meet each party separately at home for one or more private and confidential meetings in order to learn about what is happening directly from the people affected and to discuss what is concerning them. Subsequently, when the parties are ready and the Mediator feels that it is possible to negotiate an effective agreement, the Lead Mediator organises a joint meeting at a neutral venue. The purpose of the joint meeting is to enable the parties to arrive at an agreement, which the Mediators then set out in writing for the parties to sign. For very difficult cases we can conduct a shuttle mediation process throughout.

Is it confidential?

Yes. The Mediators observe a code of confidentiality and will not reveal anything that is said by one party to the other party without permission. The effectiveness of mediation depends on mediator trust, and the knowledge that either party can reveal information or a controversial point of view to the Mediators in the knowledge that it will remain confidential.

How long does it take?

This depends partly on the availability of the parties and their cooperation in agreeing and adhering to meeting arrangements. The process begins when we receive a Referral for Mediation either from a Referring Body such as a housing association or local authority department, or from the parties themselves. On receipt of the Referral, our Service Coordinator assigns a team of mediators to the case, and the Lead Mediator gets in touch with the parties to arrange the initial meetings. Once we begin, we normally hope to conclude the mediation process within a period of two to three weeks.

What is the end result?

That is for the parties to decide. However, our role is to help the parties to resolve their dispute - and this normally means preparing a signed written agreement that sets out the understandings reached and a new code of conduct for the future. Our Mediators are skilled at helping people to achieve this objective, and where parties cooperate with the process our success rate is typically over 90%.

Suppose the other party does not want to get involved in mediation?

Mediation is voluntary. Therefore, the parties must first confirm that they are willing to participate. We are happy to explain and to help an initially reluctant party to understand the process and the benefits to be gained. However, ultimately the choice is theirs. Once the process is underway, the parties need to work constructively with the Mediation Team. The Mediators will not take sides, but will guide the process to ensure that each party expresses and communicates their point of view. The Mediators may also make suggestions on how to reach an agreement that resolves the issues at stake.

What is the alternative?

Mediation can be seen as an alternative to going to court. In court proceedings, a judgement is imposed by a judge or a magistrate. If anti-social behaviour is involved the police might be able to assist. In either case, procedures have to be followed and evidence needs to be collected and recorded. This takes time and (particularly if lawyers become involved) can cost a lot of money. In mediation the process is much quicker, and rather than being coercive the outcome of the dispute is decided by the parties themselves including details set out in the written agreement. However, mediation is certainly not a soft option. Mediation agreements often have to deal with difficult and contentious issues and they incorporate a declaration that both parties intend to be bound by the terms of the Agreement that they sign.

What does it cost?

We are a registered charity, providing mediation and other conflict resolution services for the public good. We are funded by local authority grants and we also receive payment for individual referrals made by registered social landlords and certain local authority departments. In these situations, our services are provided free of charge to the individuals involved. However, we also deal with referrals that are made by individuals who, when faced with a private neighbour-related or commercial dispute, are unable to afford commercial mediation rates. In these situations, our rates are typically about one-third of those that would be incurred in the commercial sector.

How do I make a request for Mediation Services?

If you feel that you are faced with anti-social behaviour problems ask your local authority to make a referral to us. Alternatively, if you are a tenant in local authority or housing association property and have a dispute with your neighbours ask your housing officer or contact centre. Alternatively, contact our Service Coordinator directly by telephone or email. In the first instance, you will be asked to provide contact details for both parties and a brief outline of the dispute.

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