Latest statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that the number of MIAMs have decreased by 14% for the latest quarter, compared with the same time the previous year. The level of MIAMs is now about half the number which occurred prior to the implementation of LASPO, with the majority of couples attending such meetings separately.
The figures also show that agreements between the parties have also fallen since LASPO and now stand at about 60% of the number reached in previous years. The highest proportion of agreements over the last year (66%) was found to be in childcare matters.
Nigel Shepherd, Chair of Resolution said; “We believe everyone should have access to justice, and remain concerned that LASPO continues to put this at risk for thousands of separating couples. The [latest] legal aid statistics tell a very clear story: the government’s strategy is not working. The number of mediation assessments is down 14% compared to the same period in 2015, showing that fewer people are getting help to resolve matters out of court, contrary to the government’s stated objectives. Of course, the numbers are only part of the story, and regardless of how many people are accessing mediation, the outcomes for those families are absolutely crucial. The statistics show that mediations that result in agreements are 62% of what they were before LASPO.”
He shared his concerns that fewer people are now able to access legally-aided mediation as well as the independent legal advice which may be necessary for some couples both before and after mediation. In addition, Mr Shepherd felt that couples may be unaware that there was legal aid available for mediation in some circumstances and so my feel unable to try mediation as a way of resolving their disputes due to the cost involved.
Mr Shepherd concluded; “”We call on the government to take steps to urgently remedy this, including looking at funding for other forms of dispute resolution, and to immediately carry out the full review into the impact of LASPO that was promised when the reforms were introduced now over three years ago.”
Samantha Lee, Managing Director and Mediator with Swain & Co Family mediation Service says, “At Swain & Co we continue to offer Legal Aid to people who are financially eligible to receive this assistance. We would encourage couples to continue to see mediation as a positive way of resolving disputes as amicably as possible and so not be worried by the potential financial cost as we can discuss suitable fee structures if a person is not eligible for Legal Aid.”
If you have a query about mediation call Swain & Co Family Mediation Service today on 023 9247 4040.