Guidance

Small claims mediation service

If you've started or received a claim for money through the small claims court and want to try free mediation to settle out of court.

About the service

The service is free and helps resolve cases relating to financial disputes, as an alternative to taking a claim through the formal court process.

You work with a trained HM Courts and Tribunals Service mediator, who will help identify issues and work together to resolve them.

You can access the service if:

  • the claim in your case is up to £10,000
  • you have already made or received a claim
  • all the parties involved want to use the service

Types of cases that could benefit from mediation include:

  • parking penalties
  • online shopping
  • building works
  • unpaid invoices
  • livestock or pet expenses

Mediation can be less expensive for you than going to court, where additional fees and expenses will apply.

It can also be quicker than court, taking on average 2 to 3 weeks for a mediation appointment. The target wait for a court date is 30 weeks.

While mediation may help you avoid court, it will not delay your ongoing court process. You must continue to comply with all court directions.

The session is confidential – if a solution is not found and your case goes to court, the court will not be told any of the mediation details.

How to access mediation

There are 2 ways that you may be invited for mediation. If you have received a:

  1. ‘directions questionnaire’, you should choose the option to be contacted about mediation.
  2. court order in the post recommending that your case is suitable for mediation, contact the small claims mediation service.

Both parties must contact the mediation service to use it.

Contact the small claims mediation service

Telephone: 0300 123 4593

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (except public holidays)

Email: scmreferrals@justice.gov.uk

Asking someone to represent you

If you want someone else to represent you at mediation, you must let the mediation service know so the person can be authorised. Your representative could be a trusted friend or relative, or a solicitor.

This may be useful if you lack confidence in taking part in mediation because of a language barrier or other reason. Your representative must be fully aware of the facts and know how far you are willing to compromise.

How mediation works

Once both parties have requested mediation, you’ll be given your telephone appointment date and time. The appointment will last up to 1 hour.

At your appointment the mediator will:

  • explain how the session will work and checking parties are prepared
  • listen to each side separately – you won’t talk directly to the other side
  • help you reach an agreement if possible
  • be impartial and will treat both parties with equal confidentiality
  • not try to force you to find a settlement

Get the most from mediation

To help your mediation:

  • be open and flexible
  • be willing to work with the mediator to find a resolution
  • be clear with what you want to say
  • be able to answer any questions
  • have a quiet, private space where you won’t be disturbed
  • be available at the start of the session and throughout

What happens next

If mediation succeeds

You will receive a legally binding settlement agreement. This will explain what actions each party must take next.

This could be:

  • full payment of the claim
  • a reduced payment
  • a payment in instalments
  • a charitable donation in place of the claim payment
  • an exchange of product or service
  • credit or vouchers
  • completion of a contract

You can apply to the court to enforce the agreement if it is broken by the other party.

If mediation is unsuccessful

If you don’t reach an agreement in mediation, or you are unable to settle with the other party after mediation, the case will continue to the court hearing.

Published 28 September 2020