As part of our 40th-anniversary celebrations, we spoke to Hilary Keogh of Portsmouth Mediation Service, one of NFM’s member services, about the benefits of being part of NFM, and how family mediation benefits families and her hopes for family mediation over the next 40 years.
What does being a member of NFM mean to you and your service?
It provides us with the opportunity to be part of a larger organisation, so we can tap into resources and expertise, whilst also providing a locally-based service. It also means we can offer legal aid locally – which has a huge uptake in our City and enables affordable family mediation.
How does your service benefit families?
Our service aims to support Portsmouth to be a restorative City. We work with communities, schools, businesses, faith groups as well as with families. Working across all these groups can really help awareness of mediation within a family context.
What do you think the most common misconception is about family mediation?
That it is an ‘unfriendly’ service that people should feel anxious or scared about being involved in. That it is never suitable where there has been any domestic abuse. In the initial MIAMs, we assess suitability very carefully including where there has been domestic abuse – and where appropriate can look at adjustments e.g. using forms of shuttle mediation.
Also people seeing mediation as the first step to court proceedings rather than people reaching out to avoid court proceedings.
NFM is now in its 40th year – how has family mediation changed over that time?
Portsmouth Mediation is relatively new to family mediation as we have grown from a community mediation service. However, even over the last few years, we can see really positive changes e.g. through the introduction of mediation vouchers and new MIAM standards.
What do you hope for the future of NFM and Family Mediation over the next 40 years?
I hope that public funding e.g. legal aid, more explicitly supports improved communication as critical and central to sustainable family mediation agreements.
That family mediation as a profession is as inclusive as possible and mediators from all genders, cultures, races, neurotypes, backgrounds etc are part of the profession. Equally, no sector of society feels that mediation is something that they cannot use.
Family mediation is seen as an essential and integral part of every local landscape of services for parents and families. That we have spread the word about mediation to everybody so there is nobody who does not understand what it is about.