Charity reports spike in enquiries for family mediation as new school year gets underway
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Family dispute specialists who are part of the country’s largest network of family mediators has reported a significant spike in enquiries this September after the children went back to school.
NFM (National Family Mediation) says that while January is typically dubbed ‘divorce month’, the summer holidays often prove too much for strained relationships with the six-week break putting added pressure on parents looking to juggle childcare and work.
However, the organisation says that the number of couples in conflict seems to be particularly high this year, with the charity reporting in excess of 200 referrals and more than 1300 phone calls in the week commencing September 11.
This marks a 25% increase on previous years in early September and is in comparison to just 141 referrals and 700 calls in the week commencing the August 28.
NFM’s Chief Executive, Sarah Hawkins, said the spike could be attributed in part to the cost-of-living crisis, which is likely to have put additional strain on families over the summer period.
She said: “The post-Christmas period marital breakdown trend is well documented and our experience in recent years backs up the idea of a post-summer surge too. However, this year does seem to have resulted in a significant number of enquiries from couples in conflict.
Sarah explains that while more people are turning to mediation in a bid to resolve their issues more amicably, driven in part by the extension of the government’s family mediation voucher scheme, the volume of calls does suggest that other factors are at play.
She added: “While the holidays do provide a great opportunity to enjoy some quality family time together, it also adds a lot of pressure on parents who need to juggle childcare, try to keep the kids entertained, and find the budget for additional food, snacks and activities.
“For couples who are already experiencing relationship difficulties, it’s hardly surprising that this added pressure often proves too much, and we often see a surge in enquiries once the children go back to school in September.
“That’s the norm, but what we have seen this year is that calls and referrals are up approximately 25% in comparison to other years.
“While the voucher scheme will be helping drive people to use mediation instead of heading straight to court, it would certainly seem as though there are more people who are dealing with conflict this year.
“Based on the cases we are currently dealing with, the cost-of-living crisis certainly seems to go some way to explaining why so many couples are struggling, and also why those couples who are looking to part ways try to keep both the emotional and the financial impact of a separation and divorce to a minimum.”
The Government’s Family Mediation Voucher Scheme funds up to £500 worth of mediation to discuss children matters using mediation providers such as National Family Mediation (NFM).
Sarah added: “Thankfully, the Government’s Mediation Voucher Scheme is available to anyone wanting to embrace mediation to discuss children matters – regardless of their relationship status – which can help save money, time, and prevent hostility which can arise through the courts.
“Given how tight money is for everyone at the moment, this is a very welcome lifeline for those in need of conflict resolution support. Furthermore, it’s not just available to the direct parents but can be utilised by grandparents and other extended family members who need advice in child-contact matters.”
NFM is a charity which helps families to sort arrangements for children, property, finance and other important matters following separation and divorce. In addition to the family mediation voucher scheme, Legal Aid also remains available for family mediation.