Manchester volunteers have been hailed by Jonathan Djanogly after their work healing local community rifts attracted star billing.
Mr Djanogly visited the city today to meet a team of mediators who are the focus of a new national television series which follows them as they help neighbours locked in long-term conflicts over issues like playing loud music, bad parking and overgrown hedges. Mediation is often a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes and stops people having to go through the anxiety of attending court.
He said the project was an example of communities taking the initiative to sort out their own problems in a way that suits them, instead of letting them deteriorate into legal battles - something the Government has been actively promoting.
Mr Djanogly said:
‘Too many people assume they can only resolve disputes by going to court, which is expensive, stressful and does not always result in the best outcomes.
‘Here in Manchester people are demonstrating there are better ways to solve their problems. Mediation helps people stop fighting and start finding solutions that work for all involved. In family disputes, research shows it can take a quarter of the time and only cost a quarter of the price of going to court.
‘The staff and volunteers at Mediation Services Manchester help people to find a way forward when they have fallen out with their neighbours and create a safe space where people can resolve often long-running feuds, without fear or intimidation.’
The documentary follows the staff of Mediation Services Manchester, part of Manchester City Council, which works to help residents work out issues in areas ranging from neighbour disputes to education problems. They deal with several hundred disputes every year, helping people who contact them through housing associations, local councillors or seeing adverts.
Service manager Veronica Dawson said:
‘People sometimes don’t realise they can sort out their problems themselves. We often go out on cases and both parties will start off saying they can’t even go into a room with the other one, but by the time you’ve finished they have sorted it out between them, are on friendly terms and can use that to deal with any problems in the future. They realise it doesn’t need to get so hostile.’
Manchester City Council deputy leader councillor Jim Battle said:
‘We’re proud that once again, Manchester people and their city council have led the way in showing how things should be done. Over a number of years, Manchester has developed the engagement of communities in resolving their disputes using the mediation service, and this stands out as a credit to the city.
‘Our community force here in Manchester is engaged in many ways in making our communities and neighbourhoods better and safer places, and we welcome any government support that’s available.’
The Government has made a series of moves recently to encourage people and businesses to take responsibility for their own disputes, rather than turn to lawyers and judges to resolve issues.
- A first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years, which will tackle fears that a damaging compensation culture and an unwieldy justice system is costing businesses millions of pounds and deterring deserving individuals from using the justice system. Under the proposals more people will use mediation before they can go to court.
- New rules which ensure separating couples are exposed to the opportunities mediation offers before deciding whether to take their dispute to court.
- Government leading by example by signing a new Dispute Resolution Commitment (DRC) which means all departments and agencies must consider using alternatives like mediation, arbitration and conciliation first before taking disputes to court. This will build on savings of more than £360m made in the last decade.
- Reforming the legal aid system, which is one of the most expensive in the world, so that courts are seen as a place of last resort, not a first choice, and more cases are resolved earlier with different approaches aimed at simpler dispute resolution.
- Increasing Government spending on mediation for private family law by two thirds, or £10 million, to £25 million each year.
After meeting with the volunteers from Mediation Services Manchester, Mr Djanogly took part in a conference looking at the future of family justice at the Lowry Hotel, in Salford, and visited the Manchester Civil Justice Centre to meets judges, court officers and others involved with the modernisation of the court system in the city.
Notes to editors
- The work of Mediation Manchester’s staff features in Next Door Nightmares on Sky 1 on Tuesday 5 July, 12 July and 19 July at 8pm.