Published: 29 September 2015
The Legal Aid in England and Wales statistical bulletin for April - June 2015 has highlighted an increase in mediation starts over the last quarter of 33%, compared to the same period in 2014.
Prepared and published by the Ministry of Justice, the Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales are published every quarter and provide an update on all activity in the legal aid system, including workload, recent changes to legislation and expenditure.
Due to changes in legislation in April 2014, divorcing and separating couples must now attend a family mediation assessment (also known as a MIAM - Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) which involves both parties sitting down with an impartial mediator to see if they can resolve their issues, without having to go to court.
This approach has had a large amount of public backing from the government and is often a faster, more flexible and more cost effective way of settling family disputes.
Since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) in April 2013, mediation starts and assessment numbers had plummeted and took 12 months to return to only 50% of their pre-LASPO numbers.
Over the past 12 months, the number of mediation starts has started to recover and has now overtaken the number of assessments, with a 33% increase when compared to the previous year. The MoJ believe this is due to an increased number of assessments now leading to starts, with the proportion being much higher than before the LASPO was introduced.
The data also highlights that mediation is having a positive impact, with successful agreements involved in 64% of all mediation outcomes, with work involving children having the highest proportion of successful agreements at 67%.
Family legal aid work involves both public and private family law work and matters involving the Children Act, Private Law Children Act as well as domestic violence, family mediation and financial provision.
Family law accounts for almost 50% of all civil legal aid expenditure and 25% of all legal aid expenditure however, following the introduction of the LASPO, family law saw many of its associated areas removed from legal aid scope, which created a sharp decline in family related workloads.
The only areas of family law that were unaffected by the LASPO are domestic violence and public family law and as a result, work volumes have remained largely the same.
The other key finding in relation to civil legal aid was an increase of 11% to the workload for civil representation in public family law, which is now at a higher percentage than it was before the introduction of the LASPO.
If you are thinking of mediation as a way of settling your family matters then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. We have a team of experienced and fully qualified family mediators who will work with you to resolve your differences in the most amicable and positive way. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.