Across the world, family mediation has been used as a tool to deal with conflict during a family breakdown for centuries. In the UK it came to be one of the key tools in the 1980s. The rapid rise in divorce rates during these years was a key catalyst to this development. Over the past 40 years the sector has grown to become a respected profession.
We now find the sector in a challenging position as it continues to mature. The challenges include an aging profile of the mediation workforce, geographic gaps in mediators available to work, a significant drop off in number of trainees achieving accreditation, and a lack of understanding of the sector as a career opportunity.
These challenges work together to limit mediation in some areas, and the limitations are especially felt by clients who need the support of legal aid.
While divorce rates are dropping, the complexity and range of family legal matters are increasing. The increase in types of legal relationship, pressures on the court systems, limitations on legal aid, and the increasing number of children not living with both parents mean that demand for mediation is on the rise.
With increased pressure being felt by a sector that is struggling to ensure it has the people with the skills in the right places, the time appears to be right for a review of how mediators are developed and supported.
Based on over 36 years of experience, the newly-combined Norfolk and Cambridge Family Mediation Services have come together to explore the idea of creating a Centre of Excellence, to help develop and train the next generation of family mediators.
To create a physical entity to act as a development centre in all areas of family mediation. This space will be used to: