Mediation Voucher Scheme

The Mediation Voucher Scheme is an innovative initiative designed to facilitate alternative dispute resolution (ADR) by providing financial support for families undergoing separation or divorce to help them address issues concerning their children. Introduced in 2021 by the UK government, the scheme aims to promote the use of mediation over court proceedings, helping families resolve disputes amicably and efficiently.

Mediation is a process where an impartial mediator assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Unlike court cases, mediation is typically faster, less adversarial, and more cost-effective. The Mediation Voucher Scheme supports this process by offering financial support, making mediation accessible to a broader range of families. Under this scheme, eligible parties can receive a voucher worth up to £500 to cover the cost of joint mediation sessions.

The primary objective of the Mediation Voucher Scheme is to ease the financial burden associated with mediation, thereby encouraging more families to opt for this route. This initiative aligns with broader efforts to reduce the strain on the family court system which has faced significant backlogs and delays exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By diverting cases away from courts, the scheme helps to alleviate these pressures, ensuring that judicial resources are available for more complex cases that truly require legal intervention.

To qualify for the voucher, families must demonstrate that their dispute pertains to child arrangements, such as custody or visitation rights. The scheme does not cover financial or property disputes, focusing instead on issues directly impacting the welfare of children. This targeted approach underscores the government’s commitment to prioritising the well-being of children during family breakdowns.

The implementation of the Mediation Voucher Scheme has yielded promising results. According to reports, a significant proportion of families who took up the vouchers successfully resolved their disputes without needing to go to court. This not only highlights the effectiveness of mediation in fostering constructive dialogue and cooperation but also showcases the scheme’s potential to bring about long-term positive outcomes for families and the judicial system alike.

Critics, however, argue that while the scheme is a good thing, the £500 voucher may not be enough to cover the total cost of mediation in more complex cases and that it is not available to couples who are looking only at financial issues. They advocate for increased funding and broader eligibility criteria to ensure that more families can benefit from the scheme which in turn will ease the burden on the courts.

The Mediation Voucher Scheme represents a proactive step towards promoting amicable dispute resolution and relieving the burden on the family court system. Here at Hampshire Mediation we have been involved with it since the initial trials in 2021. By providing financial support for mediation, the scheme encourages families to engage in cooperative problem-solving, ultimately contributing to better outcomes for children and a more efficient judicial process. As the scheme continues to evolve, it holds the potential to become a cornerstone of family dispute resolution in the UK.