The government has been pushing mediation as the cure-all answer to its decision to end 60 years of legal aid for most family law work. Everyone can mediate; who needs family lawyers, seemed to be the rationale. Get rid of expensive legal aid, put lots of money grabbing family lawyers out of work and mediation will deliver peace, love and understanding.
Well, the perfect storm in the world of legal services has continued unabated. Locally, I am aware of dozens of family law solicitors and legal executives who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the withdrawal of legal aid. I hear that close to 1,000 high street solicitors firms have closed over the last year alone. In this respect, the government has succeeded: better still, there are no votes lost in casting lawyers onto the scrapheap.
So, with everything going to plan and all those annoying lawyers out of the picture, the mediation take-up will have rocketed, right? Completely off the chart, right? Right…?
Oh dear. Ministry of Justice figures, as reported in The Guardian and other papers, show that the number of couples accessing mediation to sort out their family law problems has dropped by 47% since April – precisely the time when the legal aid cuts were introduced. That’s nearly a 50% drop-off in 6 months. How embarrassing for Mr Grayling, the big cheese at the Ministry of Justice. This is the sort of policy car-crash that should have a resignation letter winging its way to the Prime Minister:
I just want to say how proud I am to have served in your cabinet. We are responsible for some wonderful achievements and I am sure that history will judge us kindly. However, it seems that I have made a bit of a hash with the
meditation mediation wotsit. In all fairness, I was only doing what you and George told me to do. You said it would be all right to get rid of legal aid for family work. Get rid of the lawyers and pack everyone off to mediation. Bing, bang bosh, all sorted. That’s what we told all the nay-sayers.
Well, the silly sods haven’t been going to mediation, have they? They’ve been clogging up the bloody courts as litigants in person. Then, some trouble maker only went and put in a freedom of information request. (For God’s sake, can’t Theresa kick these requests into touch when she kills off the Human Rights Act?) Anyway, the ministry suits had to admit that mediation has dropped by half in less than a year. I know, I know, I was blushing like a nun in a knocking shop.
Funny thing is, it turns out that it was the lawyers we have just kicked out who were making the referrals to mediation in the first place! Who knew…? Well, the Law Society and Bar Council did warn us that the sky would fall in but they would say that wouldn’t they? How was I supposed to know this would happen? I mean, I’m not a lawyer am I? In fact, I’m the first non-lawyer in charge of lawyer-type things for nearly 400 years, which I have to say, was a master stroke of yours. Bloody genius.
To be absolutely straight with you, I’ve never really got my melon around this Rule of Law thing. Apparently, it’s like, really, really important. All those lawyers, bigwigs and busybodies keep saying me and Theresa are taking the piss. We show ‘scant regard’, or ‘contempt’ for constitutional checks and balances. I don’t even understand what they’re getting their undercrackers in a twist about. Why can’t they use simple language I’d understand?
So, I’ll be off then. Spend some time with the family and all that. Give it 6 months to blow over and then give me a shout. Quite fancy Health. Just sayin’… See you at the next country sup.
Back in the real world, I just want to end by reminding any visitors to this blog that family mediation is still available on Legal Aid for those people adjudged financially eligible. Good luck.