Skip to main content

Legal Aid: Mediation

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department and the Legal Services Commission have taken to meet the recommendations of the National Audit Office report Legal aid and mediation for people involved in family breakdown; and if he will make a statement. (150036)

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is currently awaiting the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the National Audit Office’s (NAO’s) findings. It has however already begun to implement the NAO’s recommendations:

The LSC plans to start piloting family telephone advice through the existing CLS Direct telephone service in the autumn of 2007. This will enable clients seeking family advice to get information about mediation from trained operators.

As a result of decisions taken in the light of the LSC’s and the then Department for Constitutional Affairs’ consultation “Legal Aid Reform: Family and Family Mediation Fee Schemes”, the decision as to whether domestic abuse is a bar to mediation will now sit with the mediator and not the solicitor.

The new Family Fee Structure will also remove the financial disincentives for solicitors to make referrals to mediation, which has historically been an obstacle to increasing mediation referrals, a fact recognised by the mediation profession and in the NAO’s report.

The LSC will monitor the number of referrals made by individual firms to mediation. A report, due for implementation in October 2007, will extract information from LSC databases on the exemption from mediation reasons used by individual firms, and sanctions will be available if solicitors firms do not make appropriate and timely referrals.

The LSC is currently developing a new supplier management system to replace existing systems. This will make it easier to track cases across different schemes.