Legal Aid Payment rates have been frozen for 18 years and are now unsustainable. We would like your help to make a difference.
The Trust along with over 50 other providers of legal aid mediation are very worried that if payment rates do not improve many of the remaining providers will stop delivering this vital work and those that are left will not be able to train future mediators.
The demand for mediation is increasing - driven by the Government's and Judiciary's belief that mediation should be a solution for families; coupled with the cost of alternatives and the success rate of mediation. In the last 4 years, legal aid funded mediation increased by 17.6%.
Despite the increasing need, legal aid providers receive the same rate as in 2004, with many finding it infeasible to continue to provide legal aid mediation. The current contract for legal aid mediation was issued in September 2018, but between January and March 2022 only 48% of these contracts delivered any legal aid work... This decline is the sharpest in any legal aid sector.
It's not surprising that the cost of delivering mediation in 2022 is significantly above the cost when the rates were set in 2004. The industry has established robust and important standards: providers must comply with new legislation, in areas such as data protection and safeguarding; the cost of training new mediators in line with FMC standards has significantly increased; and providers must pay professional mediators competitive rates.
And don't forget an impressive 67% of cases that went to mediation in 2021/22, through legal aid, achieved agreements! - meaning mediation resolved family conflict, removed these cases from the courts, and reduced public expenditure.
There has never been more need for family mediation. The latest Family Court Statistics show that Children Act applications for January and April 2022 are taking an average of 46 weeks to reach a conclusion - this is a 7 week increase since 2021 and is nearly a year of a child’s life!
The MoJ’s Mediation Voucher scheme has been beneficial; but it only provides approximately 1.2 mediation sessions for a family. The first required meetings (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings) are not covered by the scheme. For legal aid providers, the vouchers are propping up the delivery of legal aid work.
If the Government, the Judiciary, and the Ministry of Justice honestly believe in mediation as a way of supporting families, then we ask them to ensure that payment rates and contract conditions are reviewed to ensure that they are sustainable.
It's in all our interests to keep contacting other FM LA providers and our Partner Organisations to grow further support.
Here are some short forms to help you:
a) Send to Partner Organisations, for them to confirm their support: https://forms.office.com/r/LFAbsRCVM3
b) Fill in yourself, to add to the central list of who has been approached for support: https://forms.office.com/r/PFc4MyvmbF
c) Send to Service Users, to say the difference that access to mediation made for them: https://forms.office.com/e/vbuSfbyW2K
Copy of Draft Open Letter and Supporting Presentation