The Civil Mediation Council – Who? Why? What?

 

Civil Mediation Council

Perhaps you can help me?

I’ve been a mediator for 20 years, working in a wide range of areas of dispute, including neighbour disputes, workplace disputes, NHS complaints, student complaints, group disputes, special educational needs disputes. I’ve been a Director of a community mediation service for 11 years and now have my own business providing mediation, conflict coaching, training and consultancy in conflict management.

But I have a question that I don’t know the answer to and it relates to the field of mediation in the UK. I’ve tried using Freedom of Information requests to get my answer but the Government body I have made the request to, the Ministry of Justice, has either not responded, or, when I’ve complained that they didn’t respond, eventually they replied to say they don’t know the answer to my question. I’ve asked them to do a review of that answer because surely they must know……

Who makes up, or what is the Civil Mediation Council and why does it have recommended status on the Ministry of Justice website?

There is a webpage on the Ministry of Justice website where mediators accredited by the Civil Medication Council can be found, so I did a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice asking the following:

“Can you please let me have the selection criteria by which the Civil Mediation Council was established as having the following status in the eyes of the Ministry of Justice, including that for its accreditation being used as a mark of quality. Please also let me know who else applied for the role at the time of selection and any basis for their selection being turned down as far as that is possible to provide. Below is taken from Wikipedia as a description of the role and status of the CMC and so I am researching the basis for this being established: “The Civil Mediation Council (CMC) is the recognised authority in England and Wales for all matters related to civil, commercial, workplace and other non-family mediation. It acts as the first point of contact for the Government, the judiciary, the legal profession and industry on mediation issues. The Ministry of Justice has used the accreditation scheme provided by the CMC as a mark of quality assurance. This is very much in line with Article 4 of the EU Mediation Directive28, which encourages Member States to develop effective quality control mechanisms.”

The response from the Ministry of Justice to my Freedom of Information request was the following:

Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) does not hold the information that you have requested. To establish whether the information was held I made enquires within the Civil Justice Policy Group.

If the information was held by MoJ it would be have to be held by the above mentioned business area. It may help if I clarify that information is not held by MoJ because the Civil Mediation Council is an independent body and is not governed by the MoJ. They will be best placed to provide you with a response for your request. Further information on how to contact them can be found on their website at http://www.civilmediation.org/about-cmc.

Well, you can imagine my surprise that the Ministry of Justice has no record about why it has a webpage on its website specifically to promote searches for mediators accredited by the Civil Mediation Council. Is it a commercial arrangement whereby mediation related bodies can pay to have their website and database of mediators publicised on a Government site? If so, where can we apply to have our own webpage promoting our work and our mediators?

Does anyone know?

Please contact me if you do, or better still, leave a comment with your answer below this article so that anyone who is also puzzled by this can see the answer.

It’s also obviously a surprise that there is no record of how it came to be that the Civil Mediation Council was accepted as the Ministry of Justice’s ‘go to’ mediation related body in order to find mediators. The Ministry of Justice says it has no information regarding how that has come about and that I should ask – the Civil Mediation Council? That seems a bit strange to me that a Government Ministry does not have any way of knowing how it has a webpage on its website publicising, endorsing and promoting an independent body about which it holds no information.

Can someone let me know the answer to my question? The Ministry of Justice doesn’t seem to know. Someone from the Civil Mediation Council perhaps?

There are a lot of claims made about accreditation and ‘assurances of quality’ within the mediation field and I am often intrigued by the basis on which such accreditations and assurances are made. Some of you who have read my writings before will have seen an article I wrote in an earlier version of this blog on  ‘Mediation Accreditation – Red Herring, Rip Off or Real Sign of Quality? where I questioned many of the claims made by those who advocate ‘accreditation’ and whether there is a basis for saying it indicates a greater level of quality of practice, and more importantly, a better service for clients.

It would seem that there is no clear basis for recommending the Civil Mediation Council accredited mediators to the general public, or if there is it would seem to be shrouded in secrecy by the Ministry of Justice.

I am concerned that such recommendations are being made in the name of mediation without a clearly identified and thoroughly researched basis for it being so. There are a wide range of approaches to mediation, none of which have been ‘proven’ to be ‘the best’ so it is unclear why an independent body that does not have any apparent reason for being recommended has been selected.

Of course a group of mediators can gather together to form a representative group to share knowledge and insights with the aim of promoting better practice, and many such groups exist, some simply for networking and discussion purposes, some advocating a particular approach to mediation. But for an independent body to be given clear, enhanced status and endorsement by a Government department and yet the Ministry in question is unclear about how that has come about would seem to be something to question.

Don’t you think?

So I am. Questioning it, and looking for some clear answers.

I guess there is also the aspect of considering  the commercial advantage provided to those who are part of the CMC, particularly the opportunity to have their website and database of members held above all other sources of mediators by having a dedicated page on the Ministry of Justice website. Surely such commercially advantageous considerations were not overlooked when the person who designed and uploaded the webpage without any apparent record for the Ministry of Justice to refer to for future reference carried through the task?

From a Mediation practitioner’s perspective does that constitute an unfair advantage without a clear basis? If you are a mediator or from another representative body for mediators that does not have a privileged status on the MoJ website, what would you say?

I’ve asked the Ministry of Justice to do an internal review to see if they can find out more, but I’ve heard very little from them. So I’ve had to ask the Information Commissioner’s Office to chase them up – they said the following:

The MOJ has now confirmed that it received your request for review. The target deadline for response is tomorrow – this was received by me on 6th January 2015 –  (taking into account the public holidays over Christmas and new year). However as you may be aware, there is no statutory timeframe for an internal review. The MOJ said that it strives to meet the ICO’s suggested target that a review should take no longer than 20 working days, although not required to do so under the legislation.

No response has been received yet, but of course I’m hopeful some dusty file in some dusty corner will come to light and be found to contain the criteria by which the CMC was assessed as being suitable to become…the recognised authority in England and Wales for all matters related to civil, commercial, workplace and other non-family mediation. It acts as the first point of contact for the Government, the judiciary, the legal profession and industry on mediation issues. The Ministry of Justice has used the accreditation scheme provided by the CMC as a mark of quality assurance. This is very much in line with Article 4 of the EU Mediation Directive28, which encourages Member States to develop effective quality control mechanisms.”

I’d welcome any answers, viewpoints, clarifications below. If I get a clarifying answer from the Ministry of Justice I will, of course post it in a second instalment or simply delete this post because all my questions will be answered.

But all the while no answer is given to that question, perhaps one of you reading this can answer for me…..The Civil Mediation Council – Who? Why? What?

Please leave your comments or answers to the questions below.

 

4 thoughts on “The Civil Mediation Council – Who? Why? What?

  1. I am a retired civil servant who on taking early retirement from Acas, trained as a commercial mediator. I later conducted commercial, county court and employment related mediation.
    I believe that once mediation ‘took off’ and lawyers began to take an interest in it, serious lobbying began and tighter controls became the focus, as to who should be included in the arena of mediation that was reducing the income of lawyers. This lobbying was almost parallel to the lobbying to curtail the activities of the independent advocates at employment tribunals (I was one). Both ‘independent’ activities were seriously curtailed and came under the umbrella of the MoJ.
    In such situations, civil servants send out questionnaires and invite comments to their proposals. They also hold meetings with interested parties. Having attended meetings of that type as a mediator, the focus of the bodies present was to look after their corner, whether it be geographical in terms of representative area; or numbers, in terms of the number of mediators they would be allowed to have per area.
    As an aside, I had a little sympathy for the lawyers as I recall there being a high number of unemployed lawyers at the time. I however did not believe they had the proper grasp of mediation at the time. It was, in my view, down to their training. After all, they were trained to do the best for their client, always. Suddenly, they were faced with a situation whereby they did not have a client – an essential aspect of mediation’s impartiality. It was not surprising, therefore, to see some of them unknowingly leaning to the side of one of the parties. I guess things have improved since then.
    I wait to see what you finally get as the answer to your question to the MoJ but I doubt you will get the specific answer you seek.

    • Thank you Roger, interesting to hear your experience in relation to this. I agree with regard to the training issue and how mediation is very different to the usual role of a lawyer and I believe there is a lot of that ‘confusion’ residing in many training courses and subsequently practice of ‘trained mediators’. In a way I think I already have my answer but am open to there being something that has not been unearthed so far such as a selection process. In the absence of it being identified however I think it will always be necessary to challenge the privileged status of the CMC and to question assertions that it provides a ‘quality assurance system’ for the general public.

  2. Dear Alan,
    To the best of my knowledge that is based on my previous long standing working experience with the Minisry of Justice in my home land, I assume that endorsing a website by MoJ (on its own website) could be related to either of the following:
    A. It’s a government affiliate body where confidentiality is of essence.
    B. It’s a private body contracting with MoJ and also confidentiality is of Essenes.
    C. It’s an issue related to highly classified relations.
    D. Finally, you may have just contacted the wrong person/s to seek information.

    • Hi Omar, thanks for your comment. I sent a general Freedom of Information request so it’s up to the MoJ to know who the right person is to answer such things….it took them 2 months to give me an answer which basically came down to ‘We don’t know’. I think if A, B or C in your list applied it would have been stated that it was confidential rather than that they don’t know, but it would be puzzling if such a thing were confidential as it is hardly an issue of national security! 🙂 I am hoping that the post and pursuing the question further with the ICO will lead to some more clarity about this. Thanks again for your comment.
      Best wishes
      Alan

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