A new set of standards for family mediators

Comment Piece

16 Jan 2015

Colin Jones

Resolution chief executive Colin Jones discusses the new mediator accreditation framework, launched by the Family Mediation Council on 1 January 2015.

The new year has started with a new set of standards for mediators, launched by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) on 1 January 2015. As part of this, there will be one accreditation standard, which all mediators will have to work towards. At first glance the changes may seem a little onerous but a high common standard across mediation organisations is critical, and so I encourage members to work with Resolution and the FMC to make this framework a success for us all. As 2015 is a transition year, we need your help to refine this work.

The aim of the new FMC’s accreditation process is to provide a clearer picture to the public of what family mediation is, how it works and promote public confidence through standards. The new framework will also make the accreditation process more straightforward for family mediators, as it provides for one accreditation process for all mediators. Please note that there are two routes to accreditation – via the FMC or through the Law Society.

Resolution is a member of the FMC and has worked closely with the Council and other member organisations to develop the framework and to ensure that your views were represented to make the accreditation process fair, workable and in line with your practice. The government has now made it clear that the primary duty of the FMC is to protect the public and that accreditation and the standards framework must be open, transparent and easily understood. With heightened public interest in mediation, fed by a promotional campaign from Government, it’s crucial that the standards framework provides an accessible foundation to increase public awareness and confidence. Once we are through the difficult transition period that accompanies the introduction of any new regulatory framework this should be clarified for both the public and mediators themselves.

Change of this size is never an easy task. This year we will start to see the accreditation work bed in and bring to the fore practical issues that need amending as mediators work with the new framework. The FMC does not wish to make mediators lives more difficult. The Council has expressed its wish to work with all mediators, to help them to reach the standard required for accreditation and to ensure that mediation is positioned correctly in any promotion to the public. Resolution is very much behind this ethos and approach – it’s a good thing for our members, and their businesses.

We want make sure that the new mediation standards are workable on a practical level. To this end the FMC will be calling for mediators to tell them what is working, what is not working and to make suggestions for improvements. We will support our members through this process. We do, of course, need to give the new standards some time to bed in, so the FMC will be putting out a call for feedback during Summer 2015, coinciding with a funding boost it has received to carry out a standards review.

Resolution has worked very hard to ensure that the FMC remains open to ideas from all practitioners. As an example, concerns have recently been raised by Resolution members about the 10 hours of consultation needed for accreditation needing to be face-to-face. The FMC has now clarified that some of the required consultation time can be done over the phone or Skype, which significantly reduces the burden on both practitioners and assessors. Your input during this early stage of implementation is vital, and I would urge all mediators to think about constructive and practical suggestions for the FMC to make the standards workable for everyone. We are currently putting together a survey of Resolution mediators, to capture your concerns and ideas on how the new framework can be improved.

We do, however, remain concerned about the requirement that a mediator needs to be accredited in order to sign the C100 form making orders for children. We have raised this consistently with the FMC since the requirement was first drafted – we continue to look for a more workable approach informed by your views and experience.

We will continue to work with the FMC and seek feedback from Resolution members on the standards framework over the coming months. Despite the inevitable teething issues I believe this is ultimately a very positive development for mediation and Resolution’s members, and will go a long way towards increasing public confidence and uptake in the process.