legalweek.com has reported that the Ministry of Justice is adding another £10 million pounds into its 2012 budget for publicly funded mediation taking the total to £24 million for the year. The report says:
An MoJ spokesperson said: “Research shows that mediation can cost a quarter of the price and take a quarter of the time of going to court.
“Data from legal aid cases show the average cost per client is £535 compared to £2,823, and that the average time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases. With two thirds of publicly funded mediation already resulting in full agreement, it can ensure better results for families too.”
I wonder if some of the money is to be used funding of the expansion of the free small claims scheme for civil cases. The scheme is currently optional and has a very high success and user satisfaction rating. These factors were presumably influential on the government because it has proposed making referral to the scheme compulsory for small claims in it’s consultation paper Resolving Disputes in the County Court. Another proposal in the same report is to increase the limit for small claims (currently at £1,000 for personal injury cases and £5,000 for other civil cases).
If these two proposals are adopted then obviously the workload of the small claims mediators will go up exponentially. The scheme is fully funded by HMCS so it will need more money to deal with the new cases.
It is not clear if the government intends to expand the HMCS service to cope with the demand or employ private sector mediation providers to fill the void. It is also not known if there will be any fee charged to litigants for the service which is currently free at the point of delivery.
I will of course report as soon as the MoJ publishes its response to the consultation when we should have better idea of how this will all pan out.