Some degree of conflict is inevitable in our relationships with neighbours, friends, or community groups.
Mostly, we manage to sort things out, smooth it over, or move on. But that’s not always possible. If conflict is unresolved, it can be stressful and uncomfortable. It may impact on people’s enjoyment of life and affect their health and wellbeing. This is particularly so where they can’t avoid the problem.
Just as you call on experts to help with many of life’s other problems – from home maintenance to health – mediators offer a set of specialist skills. We support you to resolve conflicts or disagreements when you have been unable to do so on your own.
Mediation is a tried and tested process. The mediators enable you to work out a way forward. You stand to gain understanding, clarity about the future, and peace of mind.
Always working as a pair, we have a professional but warm approach. Our community mediation meetings are focused and supportive, giving you the best chance of a positive, lasting outcome.
You are very welcome to call us, without obligation, to discuss your situation. We won’t advise mediation if we feel it is not appropriate.
A brief guide to community mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation.
Mediation is an effective way of resolving conflict. It offers the chance to put a swift end to the stress and disruption it causes. Mediation is not counselling or therapy but it does deal with human needs and emotions as well as practicalities. Most people who have used mediation say they would recommend it. They find it made a difference to have an expert, neutral third party involved.
It is suitable for conflicts between two individuals or between a group. Those involved don’t have to want to be ‘best friends’ (though some do want to restore a previously amicable relationship). All that is required is that they want to put an end to the conflict or complaint. They need to be willing to give mediation a try and be able to make decisions for themselves.
Even if you are considering resorting to the courts to sort out a conflict, it is worth trying mediation first. It is a more constructive, quicker and far cheaper option. We can usually organise mediation quickly and people often are able to improve or resolve things in a single meeting.
Community mediation can address all kinds of issues over which neighbours, friends or groups fall out:
- noise or other disturbance
- boundary disputes
- problem behaviour
- the use of common space (e.g. for parking or playing)
- children or young people
- lifestyle differences
- ‘personality clashes’
- bullying, harassment or discrimination allegations.
There are some circumstances in which mediation is not suitable. We always consider the background to a conflict and we won’t mediate if we feel it is not appropriate.
Conflict is a natural part of life. People can often sort out problems amicably one-to-one or with help from someone else. But there will be times when that doesn’t work.
Perhaps the issue has recurred or escalated or people can no longer talk to each other. It may be that others are being drawn in or it’s difficult to get to the bottom of the problem. They may be no single person that everyone can trust to help sort things out. This is when an independent mediator is very helpful.
The best time to use mediation is before things escalate out of control or become really entrenched. However, it can achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts.
Community mediation is an informal process. A neutral third party helps people in conflict to address issues that are important to them and work out a way forward.
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith.
- confidential – enabling people to be open and to get a clear understanding.
- impartial – so that everyone feels they are being treated fairly.
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no preferred outcome.
The mediator’s role
A skilled mediator:
- will listen, ask questions, challenge where necessary and identify areas of agreement/ disagreement. They will encourage, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t take sides, make judgements or offer suggestions. They won’t make decisions for the participants, or force an agreement.
There is some flexibility in this, but a typical case would work as follows:
- Enquiry/ referral. We consider the background to the conflict, its suitability for mediation, and practicalities. If the enquirer/ referrer is a potential participant, we handle this stage with care so that we remain impartial.
- We contact each potential participant to see if they wish to get involved.
- We make the arrangements – date, time and venue.
- Introductory meetings: we meet privately with each person. We ask them about the situation as they see it and what they want to achieve. We will not repeat anything we are told in this meeting to the other participants.
- Joint meeting: if everyone agrees, the participants come together in a structured meeting to discuss the issues and potential solutions. We keep things constructive and record any points of agreement, including future actions.
- Post-mediation. We send the agreement to the participants. This is not a legal document but because everyone has helped to create it they tend to stick to it. Participants can go on to make agreements legally binding if everyone agrees. We follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals to see how things are going.
The introductory meetings can take place either at your home or a venue close by. The joint mediation meeting always takes place in a neutral venue. We can help with finding suitable, low-cost venues.
Costs vary depending on the circumstances, but we will agree a fixed fee with you at the outset. Our fees for a mediation involving two clients progressing to a joint mediation, start at £530 (£265/client). This covers set-up, 4 hours mediating time with two mediators, and follow-up. We don’t charge VAT. Where needed, we will agree any additional venue costs with you as well as costs for longer-distance travel. We request payment in advance but in stages so that you only pay for what you receive.
Unlike many other practices, we always mediate in pairs. We believe that this approach gives clients the best chance of a positive outcome.
Compare our fees to the costs of solicitors which are likely to be in excess of £200/hour. Our factsheet on mediation may help you to consider your options.
Taking the first step
People caught up in conflict may be reluctant to try mediation. Perhaps it is because they feel things have gone too far or the other person won’t participate. Why not let us help with that? When people hear from someone neutral what mediation has to offer, they are often willing to give it a try. Please contact us to see whether we can help.