NFM urges families in conflict to take advantage of government mediation scheme worth up to £500
A national charity that provides mediation for families in conflict has urged grandparents who are struggling to see their grandchildren due to relationship breakdowns and family conflict to take advantage of a government scheme that will pay for up to £500 of mediation.
According to National Family Mediation (NFM), a not-for-profit organisation which helps families to sort arrangements for children, property, finance and other important matters, its national network of mediators has supported nearly 200 cases involving grandparents and extended family members since the start of the pandemic.
However, the charity says that is ‘likely the tip of the iceberg’, as many grandparents and other extended family members do not realise that they are eligible to take advantage of funding set aside by the government for people who are being prevented from seeing children.
The government scheme provides families in conflict with a £500 voucher for mediation services with the aim of finding amicable solutions to their disagreements without having to go to court.
It is intended to spare families from the trauma of going through often lengthy and costly courtroom battles, which can have a damaging impact on children. Normally each mediation session is charged for unless one of the parties has access to legal aid.
The charity is now preparing itself for an annual surge in enquiries as family conflicts tend to resurface over the holiday period.
Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said: “Christmas is a truly wonderful time of year for many, but for those who are already struggling as a result of a marital breakdown arrangements or family dispute it can be extremely stressful.
“Sadly, in some cases, that means that people avoid getting together as they don’t want to have to deal with any conflict or unpleasantness, which also means that many grandparents are left feeling ostracised.
“As a result, we usually see a real increase in enquiries in the run-up to the holidays and immediately after as people try to find an amicable and sustainable way forward. Over the last year or so though the number of matters relating to grandparents and grandchildren has grown consistently.
“Partly, in our experience, that is due to the increase in separations and divorces fuelled as a result of the stresses caused by Covid, which is having a knock-on impact on wider family members.”
While grandparents in the UK do not have any automatic right to see their grandchildren, it is possible to go to court to gain permission if an agreement cannot be reached with the parents.
However, Jane Robey says that mediation has an ‘incredibly high’ success rate when it comes to resolving such matters.
She added: “Family court really needs to be a last option in cases relating to access to children and grandchildren for a number of reasons. It’s costly, it’s stressful and in many cases, it can take months and months for a hearing to take place.
“That’s precious time that can never be got back, and chances are it won’t help mend any bridges if relationships were already fraught.
“Mediation on the other hand can help both parties reach an agreement that everyone is happy with and with the voucher scheme in place it can be a far more cost-effective and efficient way of finding a resolution.”