After more than 30 years in operation leading mediation charity, Bristol Family Mediation has been forced to close its doors as a result of mounting debts.
Bristol Family Mediation was the first family mediation service set up in the UK and it pioneered the use of mediation to help resolve family disputes rather than through the courts at a time when it was unheard of and unrecognised.
BFM has struggled since cuts to legal aid for solicitors came into effect last April. Although the government’s aim was to encourage more people to try the mediation process the cuts caused a steep dip in referrals to the charity, as people did not realise that legally aided mediation was still available.
Lib Dem Justice Minister Simon Hughes met with family mediators in Bristol just a few weeks ago in an effort to try and promote mediation as a first port of call for separating couples.This April the government made it compulsory for all separating and divorcing couples to meet with mediators before using the courts. Sadly the law change has come too late for this venerable Bristol institution.
It is ironic that Bristol Family Mediation has had to close at a time when mediation is finally becoming a mainstream option for separating and divorcing couples.
Progressive Mediation has had a long standing relationship with Bristol Family Mediation, with Frances working for them for many years on a part time basis, and we would encourage anyone considering mediation to call us. We do not have a contract to provide legally aided mediation however we are supporting the transition of both existing and potential clients, who are eligible for legal aid, to another mediation service holding a contract with the Legal Aid Agency.
Until this transition takes place within the next few weeks, we will try and help anyone who wants to talk to someone generally about mediation, and if they are not eligible for legal aid, we can make an appointment to see them.