Safeguarding adults: Mediation and family group conferences
Mediation - The stages
Stage 1: Establishing the arena
The mediator manages introductions, clarifies the process, establishes ground rules and confirms their role. They will make sure that all participants have signed the Agreement to Mediate, which sets out the terms and conditions of mediation.
Stage 2: Defining and clarifying the issues
The mediator will ask each participant to explain why they have come to mediation, their concerns and what they hope to gain from mediation. The mediator will summarise this information after each participant has presented their view, to ensure that they have understood the issues correctly and to acknowledge the concerns and feelings of each participant.
Stage 3: Agenda setting, prioritising and planning
The mediator will ask each participant to help set an agenda for mediation. The issues will be drawn from each participant’s presentation in stage 1. The mediator will:
- ensure that the participants lead the development of the agenda
- include issues that are significant to the participants
- help the participants to link issues, which can make resolution easier in stages 4 and 5
- ensure that all issues that can be included are included.
The mediator will help the participants to prioritise the issues and agree an order in which to discuss them. It may be necessary for participants to be given the chance to resolve some issues before others can be discussed.
Stages 4 and 5: Discussing the issues and exploring options
The mediator will encourage participants to discuss each issue in the order set out in the agenda. They will listen carefully for agreement on certain issues and find ways to bring participants closer on issues they do not agree on. The mediator will also encourage participants to focus on interests – what each party needs – rather than positions – what each party wants. By establishing interests that are the same or similar, the mediator will encourage participants to be creative and explore options that meet everyone’s needs and interests.
Stages 6 and 7: Solutions and securing agreement
The mediator will encourage participants to build on the options discussed in stages 4 and 5 to develop solutions that meet everyone’s needs. Two important processes happen at this stage:
- Participants are empowered to find their own solutions that work.
- Participants work in partnership – collaborating to find solutions that are beneficial to everyone.
The mediator plays an important role here: to help the participants test the achievability of the solutions they have developed. In appropriate cases, they will help the participants to focus on how their proposed agreement meets the needs of anyone – including those not present – affected by its outcome.
The individual meeting or ‘caucus’
It is sometimes necessary for participants to meet with the mediator individually. This is known as a ‘caucus’. The mediator may decide to hold individual meetings if the mediation reaches a disagreement that cannot be resolved. During a ‘caucus’ the mediator will:
- meet each of the participants individually – and their appointed supporter or advocate, if appropriate
- ensure that each participants is happy with the solutions proposed before exploring different options to settle their differences
- sometimes hold a series of separate, individual meetings where they move between these meetings to carry settlement offers back and forth. This is known as ‘shuttle mediation’, and the mediator will usually bring everyone together when they think that everyone is ready to reach agreement.
- sometimes use the caucus to find out what they can do to help with communication.
Termination of mediation
Mediation ends when the participants have settled their differences. However, the mediator has a right to terminate mediation if they feel it is no longer in the best interests of the participants. This brings the mediation process to an end. Mediators must explain this right to the participants at the start of the mediation session. They may also suspend mediation, with the intention of restarting mediation at a more appropriate time. Any participant may withdraw from mediation at any time, and this right must also be explained. The mediator should talk to the person who wishes to withdraw from mediation about the issues that led them to make this decision, with the intention of drawing them back into the process. If mediation terminates before participants have settled their differences, the mediator should refer the participants for support from other professional services as appropriate.
The mediator may decide that it is appropriate to terminate or suspend mediation if:
- the process is likely to harm or prejudice one or more of the participants
- a participant is unable to take part effectively, despite having the appropriate help and support
- one or more of the participants is acting in bad faith
- any agreement proposed by the participants is unreasonable
- the usefulness of mediation is exhausted.
Stage 8: The mediation agreement
At the end of mediation – or at the end of each session if there is more than one – the participants can ask for a written summary of the issues they have explored and any agreements made. This mediation agreement is also known as an ‘Outcome Statement’, a ‘Mediation Summary’ or a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’. It is important because it records the progress that everyone has made towards settling their differences. The mediation agreement may be used to settle the detail of care plans between the person, family and social care services. If mediation is taking place in the context of Court of Protection – or Office of Care and Protection in Northern Ireland – proceedings, the mediation agreement will need to be considered by the participants’ legal representatives (if they have one) and should be acceptable to a court.
If mediation is taking place in the context of proceedings in the Court of Protection and the aim of mediation is to reach an agreement that is legally binding:
- The mediator should let the participants know if an agreement is likely to be acceptable to the parties’ legal representatives and to the Court.
- Participants should have an opportunity to consult their legal representatives before entering into a formal arrangement.
- The mediator should ensure that a legally appointed person – such as an attorney appointed under a lasting power of attorney or a court-appointed deputy – who is capable of representing the views of the person and making decisions on their behalf within the scope of their authority, is satisfied that the agreement is in the best interests of the person they represent.
- The referrer or other representative from the referring agency should be present during mediation and have the authority to enter into an agreement.
Stage 9: Follow-up and review
It is important to review the resolution made by participants after mediation to see how it is working in practice. In most cases no further mediation will be needed, and the involvement of the mediator is no longer required. Occasionally, the agreement may need to be adjusted to reflect a change in circumstances or the fact that some aspect of the agreement has not worked. The referrer should follow up the case at regular intervals – for example at three months, six months and one year – to address any problems, to check whether the agreement is still working and to see whether additional support is needed. The referrer should encourage participants to request a follow-up mediation session or review if they feel they need additional support. The mediator should also tell participants at the end of mediation that they should contact the referrer to request a follow-up session or review if some part of the agreement has not worked or needs to be adjusted to reflect a change in circumstance. It is important that all participants:
- understand this
- are encouraged to request a follow-up mediation session or review if they need additional support
- understand who will monitor their progress after mediation and how to request a follow-up session or a review.