Family mediation seeks to repair the relationship between a young person and their parent or carer. Mediation should be objective without a specific outcome as its goal – for example, a homeless young person returning home. The mediator should remain impartial and neutral at all times.
In reality, mediation services are often provided by housing providers or local authorities, who are not able to remain impartial and who measure the success of the process in terms of the housing outcome for the young person. Such services are closer to conciliation than mediation.
Mediation is often undertaken when a young person presents as homeless having left the family home, but it can also be undertaken before a young person leaves home to prevent homelessness or enable them to stay at home while suitable alternative accommodation is arranged.
Mediation services range from a one-off session via a phone call, home visit or a meeting of all parties in a neutral space, to a more holistic family reconnection service. The latter uses a case-management approach to provide support to young people and their families to facilitate improved relationships and re-entry to the family home. Family reconnection interventions also encourage long-term access to mental health services and provide ongoing support to help ensure that family relationships are healed in a more permanent way.
Strictly speaking, the aim of mediation should be to repair the relationship between a young person who is at risk of, or is already, homeless and their parent or carer. The real focus of many mediation programmes is about preventing homelessness by facilitating access back into the family home for a young person or enabling them to stay there while alternative suitable accommodation is found.
There are no studies measuring the effectiveness of Family Mediation and Conciliation.
There are currently no relevant studies.
No evidence is available on which groups this intervention affects.
No evidence is available on which outcomes this intervention affects
If you are implementing family mediation, consider how best to gain the buy-in of the service user from the outset. Service user buy-in is affected by the background of the service users, but also their referral route to the service and understanding of the intervention, e.g. young people referred by their school or a family member may feel they are in trouble. Ensure service users are fully informed about the process and arrange appointments at a time and place that helps them feel comfortable. Note that a school environment may put some service users off discussing personal issues.
Ensure that referral agencies can identify the target service users and that they communicate the purpose of the intervention clearly to them. Assessments should be as informal as possible and communication is best conducted face to face and with text and phone reminders of meetings. Consider requiring agreement from the young person and their family to proceed; this will make the process more positive for all parties. A young person should not be compelled to engage in family mediation before a local authority will process their homelessness application.
Service users are likely to need a range of other support such as education, employment and finance. Ensure staff have good emotional skills and engage users actively in their support plans. Staff must be well trained in mediation and also understand the wider service landscape and potential onward referral pathways. Ensure staff provide support that is consistent, non-judgemental, and well rounded, but within professional boundaries.
Effective partnerships and clear protocols will facilitate resourcing staff to meet the diverse needs of service users. Ensure approaches are aligned between partners and effective data collection and sharing are in place. Establish contracting arrangements that enable appropriate agencies to collaborate from the start of the process. Clear and consistent policies on child and youth homelessness help agencies to deliver long-term outcomes and sustainable services. Implementing agencies should be aware of the time it may take to establish a functional service.