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Coronavirus Issues

The coronavirus pandemic means that mediators have changed the way in which they work for the time being. The information below sets out the changes the FMC has made as a result and includes information about other relevant organisations.

 

Online Mediation

The FMC published Guidance to Online Mediation in 2016. This can be found here.

Please also see the FMSB’s Guidance on Information and Assessment Meetings During Coronavirus Social Distancing Period.

 

Portfolio Changes

At the start of the pandemic, the FMSB brought in temporary amendments to the portfolio requirements, to try to ensure that mediators could still make progress towards accreditation. In light of the fact that over 90% of mediations are now taking place online, the increased observations opportunities that this brings, and the availability of online training, the FMSB has agreed to end the temporary measures that relate to submitting incomplete portfolios and starting to mediate before observing an FMCA mediator. This change will take effect from 1 January 2022. Other provisions, which relate to work carried out online being submitted as part of the portfolio, will remain and kept under review – these are as follows:

1. Mediators can submit commentaries for cases mediated via online video conference as part of their portfolio.

2.Mediators can observe their PPC or another FMCA mediator via online video conference and use this observation for the purposes of the portfolio.

3.Mediators can be observed by their PPC (or another FMCA mediator in accordance with the rules) via online video conference for the purposes of the portfolio.

It is important to remember that portfolios should include evidence of all competencies in the usual way, irrespective of whether work has taken place online or in person.

All other requirements for mediators working towards accreditation remain unchanged.

 

Meeting annual requirements for CPD, PPC time and, for accredited mediators, number of hours of mediation

Whilst the government advises social distancing, the FMSB make allowances if mediators cannot meet these annual requirements. Mediators are reminded however that requirements can be met by mediating, attending some of the many courses that are available and consulting PPCs online.

Mediators due to submit re-accreditation applications should still submit their applications at the scheduled time unless ill or otherwise unable to do so due to caring for others or similar circumstances, in which case the usual provision which allows for an extension of time will apply. If the annual requirements cannot be met due to the coronavirus crisis, this should be stated on the form.

 

HMCTS and the Courts

The President of the Family Division has issued Guidance on Compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders which can be found here.

HMCTS has formally confirmed that courts will accept an emailed copy of the FM1 or the mediator’s certificate at page 9 of the C100 application form and said that guidance will be provided to family court staff on this point.

Some mediators were concerned that the four-month period for which a MIAM certificate is valid would need to be extended. Courts are continuing to accept applications for private family law matters, and so an extension is not necessary.

 

Legal Aid

The Legal Aid Agency continues to update its response to the coronavirus crisis. Please see the following pages for the most up to date information.

LAA Coronavirus Contingency Response

Schedule of processes restarting after COVID-19 contingency

Signatures

Guidance has been published covering the issue of obtaining signatures, the LAA confirming that electronic signatures are satisfactory. The LAA are looking to providing a Means7 form that could be electronically signed without Adobe. In the event that an electronic signature could not be obtained an email from the client showing the following is satisfactory:

  1. an intent to take up the offer of legally aided family mediation (not just the expectation),
  2. plus the client’s name with the intention that it is considered to be a signature, which should be contained in the body of the email.

 FMC suggests the mediation provider sends an email to the client which could say:

  • I attach the form for the assessment of eligibility for legal aid which you must read. Please ensure that you check your contact information and especially the financial information provided by you. If any of it is incorrect then please let me know. 
  • If the contact information and financial information is right, then please read the declarations at the end of the form.
  • If you are happy that the form is accurate and agree that you want your email to be treated as your signature then please copy and paste the following wording into an email to me:

“I have checked the legal aid form sent to me and have read the declarations on that form. I am happy for this email to be taken as my electronic signature and I understand that I am now applying for legal aid for family mediation.” 

The client must then copy and paste the above in to an e-mail to you with their name also typed in to the body of the email.

Whatever route to obtain the signature is obtained, the reason for this should be recorded on the case file.

 

Health and Safety

Some mediators have asked the FMC for health and safety advice about working during the current crisis. The FMC cannot provide such advice, and so mediators are advised to follow government guidelines which are here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Mediators may also find this tool useful: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-reopening

 

The FMC and the FMSB

The FMC is operating as closely to normal as possible, although the FMC and the FMSB’s areas of focus are of course on dealing with coronavirus-related issues, which means that other work may take longer to complete.

The FMC administrative team may be working different hours, which means you may have to leave an answer-phone message or send a voice-mail, rather than speaking to somebody on the phone during our normal office hours, but we will try to get back to you as soon as we can.  Please help us by sending e-mails and making payments by bank transfer or online card payment, as opposed to sending any post.