The birth of The Family Mediation Trust

Norfolk and Cambridge Family Mediation Services to merge as The Family Mediation Trust to create a stronger organisation, better able to reach and serve more families across the East of England.

Drawing on more than 73 years of combined knowledge and experience from the Norfolk and Cambridge Family Mediation Services, The Family Mediation Trust, a charity,  will ensure the new service maintains its focus on quality while continuing to serve families as well as others in need of mediation in the East of England.

The Family Mediation Trust is currently delivering its services online through Zoom, Teams, Skype and WhatsApp.  When face-to-face delivery resumes, the Service will  initially deliver mediation in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Kings Lynn and Cambridge, with The Separated Parenting Information Programme (SPIP) continuing to run in Cambridge and Peterborough.

The formation of the Family Mediation Trust also sees the Cambridge delivery centre moving from its home for the past two decades on Regent Street to the Advice Hub, 66 Devonshire Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 2BL. The new location will have improved mediation rooms and provide easier access for clients, while still being well located very near to the main train station.

The merger of the two growing charities will support the development of mediation services, ensuring legally aided mediation is accessible to all who need it, and create a larger physical and virtual presence to help more families. We believe this will help mediation to be seen as a positive process for families facing separation.

The merger comes at a time of increasingly complex challenges being faced by separating families.  In addition to the pressures on the court system pushing more people to resolve the terms of their separation through approaches other than costly court hearings, the limitations on legal aid and the increasing number of children not living with both parents means the demand for mediation is on the rise.

In response to the increasing demand for family mediation, the merger will also see the creation of a new Centre of Excellence (CofE) based in Cambridge. This new arm of the charity’s work aims to build on The Family Mediation Trust’s great strengths, supporting the training and development of both new and existing mediators, in addition to creating a common space for the sharing of best practices by mediators at all stages of their career. The centre will also undertake research into key mediation topics. Delivery is planned to start in late summer/early autumn.

Stephen Burke, chair of Norfolk Family Mediation Service, said: "The merger of Norfolk and Cambridge family mediation services will create a stronger organisation, better able to reach and serve more families going through separation. As the country comes out of lockdown, we anticipate that more families, particularly with children, will need independent expert help through mediation to shape their futures.

The Family Mediation Trust will become a major force working for the good of families going through difficult and stressful times. It will build on the excellent work delivered by qualified mediators over several decades across Norfolk. I thank everyone who has contributed to that legacy."

Joanne Preston, the new Chair of the Family Mediation Trust and former Trustee of Cambridge Family Mediation, said “I am very pleased that we have been able to take two leading providers of mediation, each already strong in their own right, and form a new Service that will be better equipped to face the economic and mediation challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.  The Centre of Excellence is an exciting opportunity that we hope will allow us to train up the next generation of mediators, sharing the skills and talent of our current mediators who are among the best in the country”.  

The Family Mediation Trust is committed to providing timely and low-cost mediation, and is one of the few legal aid providers based locally in the region. The merger has evolved as a result of the two services’ high performance, with The Norfolk Family Mediation Service seeing a 28% increase in the number of people it supported last year, achieving its best performance in 10 years. The Cambridge Family Mediation Service has achieved two consecutive years of economic growth while also focusing on improving outcomes for those attending mediation, with a 21% improvement in the number of cases that reach mediation reaching an agreement.   

Michael Mack, the Chief Executive Officer, said: “The joining of the two services has been led by the need of the Trustees to create a charity that can not only cope with the pressures of a volatile economy but also to deliver mediation and support to separated families at the highest standard. We have an amazing team of mediators and administrators in both services, and this merger will enable us to invest in them to ensure our delivery is as good as it can be. 

This merger has been in the planning stage for a number of months and while the challenges of working under the Covid-19 restrictions have not been easy, they have helped us explore ways of remote working which will help us in the coming years.”

The Family Mediation Trust is a charity-run mediation service formed by the merging of the Norfolk Family Mediation Service and Cambridge Family Mediation Service in 2020. With 37 years since first the opening of the founder organisations, The Family Mediation Trust is dedicated to easing the pain of divorce, separation and family disputes caused to families across the East of England by offering a faster and less expensive approach than a battle through the courts. The head office is located in Norwich at the Charing Cross Centre on St John’s Maddermarket, with a dedicated delivery centre and Centre of Excellence in Cambridge.

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