Safeguarding adults: Mediation and family group conferences
Key messages from policy and research
- Mediation is most effective when the issues being addressed are open to resolution through modification of perceptions, attitudes or behaviour.
- The Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice (section 15.3) states that disagreements between family members can be effectively resolved through mediation.
- If a court process has already been completed, mediation may help with healing (Groh and Linden 2011).
- Individuals responsible for screening cases for referral to mediation must have access to policy and guidance identifying which types of case are appropriate in the context of adult safeguarding.
- The mediator should meet the potential participants individually in advance of the meeting, in line with best practice from child protection (CCEL 2012).
Mediation may be appropriate where established processes have failed to achieve effective outcomes and contested issues remain. Mediation may be useful in relation to a number of situations, for example: advance decisions, end-of-life planning and decision-making; financial decision-making and estate planning; intergenerational family disputes; and determining self-determination versus safety issues.
Where there is disagreement as to whether a person is being deprived of their liberty under the DoLS, mediation should not be viewed as an alternative to a person’s legal right to have their deprivation of liberty formally reviewed. It may complement the process and avert some applications to the Court of Protection (CCEL 2012; Mental Capacity Act 2005, Code of Practice, section 15.10; Smyth 2011).
When determining whether mediation is appropriate, the key considerations are the ability of the person to take part in the process and whether there are concerns about abuse, domestic violence or intimidation.
Mediation is likely to be inappropriate when a referral is made too early or too late, and will not be appropriate in circumstances where:
- the parties are unwilling to take part in mediation
- the conflict is about issues that are not capable of resolution through negotiation (for example where the parties strongly disagree over facts or moral outlook)
- there are significant power imbalances that cannot be overcome or compensated for by the involvement of a proxy or an advocate
- the issues that divide the parties have direct criminal law implications.