The Ministry of Justice has developed a mediation voucher scheme, whereby a contribution of up to £500 per case/family to the mediation costs of a child arrangements case will be offered, encouraging people to seek to resolve their disputes outside of court where appropriate to do so.
The purpose of the scheme is to promote the benefits of mediation and divert matters where appropriate away from the family courts. The scheme will offer mediation participants a financial contribution of up to £500 per family towards the total costs of their mediation. This payment will be made directly to mediation providers by the FMC which is administering the scheme on behalf of the MoJ.
Before confirming to clients that a voucher is available, mediators must make a request for voucher allocation, and receive a case reference number from the FMC – this is to ensure that vouchers are only allocated where funds are available.
The following documents contain information mediators need to know in order to participate in the scheme.
- Full Details of the Scheme
- Details of the form that client consent must take (which must be submitted when you request allocation of a voucher)
- Participant Monitoring Form
- Case data to be submitted by the mediator
- Billing information to be submitted by the mediator
The scheme is open to mediation participants who attend a MIAM on or after 26 March 2021 .
Please click here to register to participate in the scheme and to access the forms required to make allocation requests.
Mediators who intend to participate in the scheme are encouraged to download the template press release, complete the service specific sections, and send this to local press.
Mediators who participate in the scheme are asked to record how many families the vouchers are offered to, and how many accepted. Mediators will also be asked their view on why people did not take up the offer of a voucher if made.
Mediators with questions about the scheme should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org – the FMC will produce and regularly update FAQs about the scheme, so all mediators can see the answers to questions previously asked.
The FMC’s Privacy Notice for the Mediation Voucher Scheme can be found here.
Mediation Vouchers Q&A
Q&A Content – please click below to skip straight to the relevant section
|www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/vouchers is not working||The correct link is
|Can you direct me to any information about the rest of the £1m investment into family mediation?||Here is the government press release:
|Participating in the scheme|
|I just wanted to know as a mediator, how to I register for the scheme.
|You will be able to register for the scheme from 1 April – a link will be added to the Voucher Page on the FMC website (https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/mediation-voucher-scheme/) in the morning.
In the meantime, please ensure you are obtaining client consent as required, and prepared to gather the data required (statistics about numbers of vouchers offered and taken up, case data, billing information)
|Could you explain how this works where a mediator is working on behalf of a mediation service? Would the voucher able to be claimed and processed by the service or would the mediator be expected to do it and can a service register more than one mediator?||An organisation can make a claim, on behalf of an FMCA mediator and a service can register more than one mediator.
We ask that mediators check their practice address details are up to date on the FMC Register, as we will contact any mediator where an organisation registers to claim the voucher on the mediator’s behalf, if we do not have a separate record of the mediator working for that organisation.
|I enter the basic details into the vouchers scheme registration. Having spoken to the team of mediators working for me it was intended that as a service I would manage all of the claims and administration behind them for the mediators.
It didn’t appear obvious how this might work from the registration. If someone can let me know the options.
|If you have registered as a service and only entered the name and URN of one mediator you wish to register under the scheme, please e-mail email@example.com with the full name and URN of those mediators you wish to add, clearly stating the name of the service your registered.
If you have not yet registered your service and wish to name multiple mediators, click on the ‘+’ button to the right of the URN field when entering mediator details, to allow you to add details of additional mediators.
|Please could you confirm whether this scheme is open for charitable organisations||The voucher offer can be taken up by any FMCA mediator, no matter their business (or not-for-profit) model. It is open to sole traders, companies, charities and others, making a claim on behalf of Accredited Mediators.
|If I register for the voucher scheme (I am an accredited mediator) Can I apply for vouchers for clients of the 2 different mediation services that I work with?
|Each body which will submit an invoice under the scheme needs to register separately – Registration is the stage at which we ask for bank account details, so we can verify these and set registrants up as payees in order to pay invoices. So, if you work for two different services which have different bank accounts, each of those services will need to register separately. Both can list you among the mediators for whom they may be making a voucher request.
|Do we need to contact the FMA (sic) by phone to get each code? How long will the process take?||Voucher allocation requests will be made online, from 1 April. The FMC aims to confirm whether vouchers have been allocated within a week.
|Will there be guidance on amended wording to the Agreement to Mediate from the FMC to accommodate the claim and payment under Voucher Scheme or will that come from separate Mediator’s Supervisory bodies, e.g. Resolution or FMA, given that the payment will be sought by the Mediator from the FMC instead of the client and that the Mediation may appear to have finished but the full £500 possible fund is not used up and the parties may want to revert to mediation later. To be sure the mediation has finished and avoid a claim for lost Voucher funds there would need to be either a time limit after the last meeting to treat the mediation as finished (so delay in a claim for fees) or there would need to be consent of the parties given in writing, presumably.||The FMC doesn’t intend to issue guidance on this point – it does not produce a template Agreement to Mediate, and so cannot advise on how it should be amended. Payment terms should include a mechanism whereby a case can be treated as concluded and therefore invoiced for (allowing voucher funds to be claimed, in case mediation costs fall under £500). Second claims cannot be made for later mediations even where he original claim is under £500.
|Is it right, as appears, that there will be no compensation for Mediators for participating in the scheme or for the time to provide the further information in the MIAM?||There is no administration payment to mediators for participating in the scheme.
|Is there a limit on the number of mediation practices which might be approved to provide vouchers?||No. There is a limit on the number of vouchers. Vouchers may only be applied for by (or by a service on behalf of an) FMCA Mediator, but there is no limit on the number of mediation practices which can register to offer the vouchers.
|If I saw one client for a MIAM before 26 March and one on or after 26 March, are they eligible for the scheme?||No. Both parties must have attended a MIAM on or after 26 March 2021 to be eligible for this scheme.
|Can currently open cases have access to the fund? This would count to those undergoing MIAMS and those who have started mediation?||The voucher is only payable to those who attend MIAMs from 26 March (today, at the time of writing) and so cases that have started cannot benefit from this fund.
|I have previously seen clients who did not pursue mediation because of costs. If I conduct another MIAM, can they now claim the voucher.
(Follow up question) What if I conduct the second MIAM without charging the client?
|As long as the MIAM which leads to mediation takes place on or after 26 March 2021 (and other eligibility requirements are met) a voucher may be claimed. However, all clients must be made aware that voucher funds are limited and there is no guarantee that a voucher can be allocated. To invite a client to attend new MIAM and incur a cost for this (which is not recoverable even in the event where a voucher is allocated) would be unethical unless the clients were very clear that there is no guarantee the voucher is available. If you do not charge the client for a new MIAM, then before inviting your client to the new MIAM you must still explain that there is no guarantee that a voucher is available.
|Timing of Requests, Approval and Payment|
|What is the timescale from submission of the invoice at the end of case to payments of the funds claimed?
|The FMC aims to pay invoices within 14 days, where all documentation is in order.|
|Are we able to bill the client and obtain payment in full and then refund them after the payment of voucher to us?
|No. If you have been allocated a voucher you should not bill clients for the first £500-worth of mediation session costs.|
|How long will it take between a voucher being claimed and approval being given?||The FMC aims to consider and respond to all voucher requests within 7 days.
|As I conduct a MIAM and first appointment on the same day, can I apply before that date?
|No, voucher requests must be made after the MIAMs have taken place.|
|Can I conduct a MIAM and mediation session on the same day, and apply for the voucher to fund any subsequent mediation sessions?
|No. Vouchers should cover the first £500 of mediation session costs unless the client is on legal aid (see question below)|
|For legal aid cases where one party is not eligible do we still need to apply after MIAM stage even though the case may not proceed to two mediations?
|No. If the first session is funded by legal aid, and you do not think the mediation will proceed to two sessions, you can apply after the first mediation session is complete.|
|My reading of the scheme is that the mediator must wait until the end of the child mediation before they can claim the voucher monies of £500 incl vat which could be many months if the child mediation takes place over 2-4 sessions and, of course assumes that the Voucher fund still has monies in it when the claim is eventually made.
My understanding is that if the intention is to claim the voucher monies the client does not have to pay the first £500 incl vat of the mediator’s invoice(s) and the mediator claims this at the end of the mediation (assuming that there are still monies in the Voucher fund by the time the mediation comes to an end).What if the Voucher fund does not have any monies in it when the mediator makes the claim having not charged the clients for the first £500 incl vat of their mediation?My understanding is that there is no scope for the mediator to make interim claims where the child mediation is going on and on and must simply wait.Please confirm my understanding is correct.To me it would make sense for the mediator to invoice the clients for their work, claim the voucher monies at the end of the mediation (assuming that there are still monies in the fund) and reimburse the clients the £500.
|The ‘prior approval’ system of voucher allocation means the fund will have money in it to pay for the allocated vouchers.
A request for an allocation of a voucher should be made as soon as the clients wish to access this (this is likely to be the beginning of a mediation, unless one client is legally aided and you think the mediation is only likely to require one session).
If a voucher is allocated, that £500 is held for that case until an invoice is submitted, the mediator informs us it is no longer required or its expiry date (set to ensure there is monies are not allocated and then not spent). You will be allocated a case reference number which you must include on the invoice when submitted.
This means that the voucher fund will have sufficient monies in it to pay invoices submitted in those cases where funds have been allocated.
Clients must not be charged for the first £500 of mediation sessions (inc any VAT) where a voucher is allocated.
|Legal aid & Eligibility|
|Is there a financial eligibility test? If so what are the criteria?
|There is no financial eligibility test.|
|We have a legal aid contract so I assume these vouchers apply only to private clients, i.e. the non legally aided clients who pay their own bills?||If you have a legal aid contract, you should continue to assess clients for eligibility and apply for legal aid in the usual way. However, you can use the vouchers for the second session onwards (which is not covered by legal aid) in a situation where one client is legally aided and one is not.
|Having read the documents I am not clear on the following statement:
Clients who are eligible for legal aid may, however, choose to obtain a £500 contribution towards their overall mediation costs under the scheme, instead of claiming legal aid.
I cannot quite comprehend any advantage to a client for not claiming legal aid if they are eligible.
I am concerned that this a loophole whereby the services that do not hold a contract can use this scheme rather than legal aid.
I would be interested to know what checks will be put in place to ensure that the client was encouraged to go to a legal aid service provider.
As a service that has continued to work really hard during the pandemic offering legal aid and taking on the additional burdensome gathering of evidence remotely, I am upset that we may lose legal aid clients to other services without a contract under this scheme .
|The voucher scheme is not intended to change the way in which clients who are eligible for legal aid are referred to legal aid services.
It is intended that services which do not have legal aid contracts, and who carry out a high-level assessment for legal aid and believe a client is eligible for this, continue to refer their clients to a mediator with a legal aid contract.
However, there are times (irrespective of the voucher scheme) when clients who may be eligible for legal aid choose to pay privately for mediation. There may also be circumstances in which a person either becomes eligible for legal aid part way through a mediation. The voucher scheme does not exclude clients who are eligible for legal aid because of circumstances such as these.
The FMC Code of Practice forms the basis of the regulatory framework around referrals to mediators with legal aid contracts under the voucher scheme as it does in any event.
As a legal aid provider, your privately paying clients – including partners of those who are legally aided and who often drop out after a first session as they do not want to pay for a second or subsequent session – should also be able to benefit from this scheme.
|What is a ‘high-level assessment of eligibility for legal aid’? I understand what a legal aid assessment is but I do not understand how a ‘high level assessment’ differs from a legal aid assessment. To what extent am I required to now inform myself of the eligibility requirements for legal aid? Will I need to see evidence from the clients before conducting the high level assessment? Must I now assess all clients for legal aid in order to apply for a voucher despite the fact that eligibility for a voucher is not affected by income/capital (I ask because the data capture form seems to imply that I do)?||A high-level assessment means checking for basic criteria – income/property levels – which might make a person eligible, as opposed to carrying out a full detailed assessment which is needed when applying for legal aid.
You can use the govt website link to help you make the assessment https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid
(NB Click ‘yes’ to say mediation has started to reach the calculator)
Mediators are already required by the Code of Practice to individuals if they may qualify for legal aid and (if the mediator does not offer this) the services of a mediation practice with a legal aid contract.
You do not need evidence of legal aid eligibility to complete the data capture form. Complete it to the best of your knowledge (taking in to account the requirement to complete a high-level check).
|If we have one funded party and claim the 1st Session from the LAA and use the voucher to cover the non-funded party for the 2nd session onwards (time in session only) if an agreement is reached, can a settlement (to cover the preparation) be claimed from the LAA, with the first Session fees?||The voucher can replace private funding and doesn’t affect what can be claimed under legal aid. So, you can claim the mediation session costs for the non-funded party from the second session onwards, and claim usual costs from the LAA.|
|Please could you confirm if the client was initially private fee-paying client can this scheme still be offered and would an mean assessment need to be carried out. If so how do I register as I do not undertake legal aid work?||This scheme is different from legal aid, and only people who attend a MIAM on or after 26.3.21 (today, at the time of writing) are eligible for the vouchers, so there is no question of a client being ‘initially’ private fee paying.
See above re scheme registration.
|Is the prohibition on a second claim absolute, even if the full £500.00 has not been claimed in the Invoice?
|Can the parties discuss related financial issues alongside children issues in their mediation sessions e.g. child maintenance changes with changes to the arrangements for their children?
|Yes, the scheme covers both child only cases and AIM.|
|If it is an All Issues (AIM) case, can I only claim costs for the proportion of time spent discussion issues relating to children?||No, the scheme will pay for AIM mediation sessions including the time spent discussing finance (up to a maximum of £500).|
|Is the scheme for clients who are in the court process and/or submitted a C100? Or is it for people who are thinking about starting court proceedings?
|Eligibility is not affected by whether clients are coming to mediation at the pre-court or post-court stage. We anticipate most clients will be attending pre-court, but there are cases in which courts refer cases to mediators after proceedings have been issued, and the voucher may be used in these cases also (assuming other eligibility requirements are met).|
|If mediation does not result in an agreement and my clients go to court can I still claim the voucher?||Yes, if your client has been allocated a voucher and you have conducted mediation, you can submit your invoice for payment irrespective of the outcome of mediation.|
|Just so that I can be sure I have understand stood what I have read VAT has to be considered in the £500 payment? Therefore if a mediation firm is registered for VAT the clients are actually only receiving just under £420 towards the costs of mediation, the rest being taken up with vat?||Yes, VAT is included in the £500 limit.
All families under this scheme can benefit from a reduction of up to £500 in their mediation costs – The net benefit to the clients is the same.
The inequality here is created by the fact that some services are registered for VAT, and some are not, not by the way the voucher scheme operates.
|Mediators Working Towards Accreditation|
|I wanted to see how this works for mediators working to accreditation: I know it says to be included in the scheme the accredited mediator must be present. A lot of accredited mediators are mediating solo with guidance from their PPC. If the option is to have your PPC/accredited professional present it seems this will greatly impact those mediators working towards accreditation.
“Mediators working towards accreditation may mediate as part of this scheme where a Family Mediation Council Accredited mediator is present, and takes responsibility for the mediation and for claiming the voucher funds. “ – is this intended to mean that the Accredited mediator must be present in the room or in the firm/organisation? It seems to me that if it is the former this is going to stop most mediators working towards accreditation receiving ANY referrals thus making the, already very difficult to navigate, accreditation process almost unachievable.
Obviously, it would be unethical to suggest someone to pay when there is a scheme that offers them £500 for the mediation.
|Mediators working towards accreditation can mediate under the voucher scheme where an Accredited mediator is present in the room during the mediation, takes responsibility for the mediation and claims the voucher funds.
As with legal aid, it is the case that this means that mediators working towards accreditation cannot conduct voucher-funded mediation without an Accredited mediator present.
The Ministry of Justice understandably wished to have the assurance of Accredited mediators taking responsibility for voucher funded cases
The voucher funds are very limited (if spread evenly between all Registered mediators, it would amount to two cases each) – if a mediator working towards accreditation does receive a referral which is eligible for the voucher scheme, it could be used (with the agreement of the PPC) as the mediation to be observed for the purposes of the portfolio.
The voucher funds may also be used to pay for CIM (if the mediator WTA refers this to an FMCA mediator).
Mediation relating to finance and property only is not covered by the voucher fund, so these referrals are unaffected.
|One of my supervisees who is WTA has asked whether I could register for the voucher scheme on her behalf so that I co-mediate any voucher cases with her and I report to FMC on the mediations and invoice FMC. Please could you confirm whether this is permitted as her PPC.
|Yes, PPCs (or FMCAs) who take responsibility for mediation can claim a voucher on behalf of a client, in cases they are co-mediating with a mediator who is working towards accreditation.|
|I am trained, but not registered with the FMC. Can I participate in the scheme?||No. The scheme is limited to FMCA Mediators or those registered mediators working towards accreditation under their supervision, as described.
If you are a trained mediator and not registered with the FMC please contact the office on 01707 594055 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the process of joining the register.
|Data collection/assurance processes/client consent|
|On the ‘data to be collected’ form it asks me to complete ‘ Client location – first part of postcode’. I expect to have at least 2 clients per voucher – who’s postcode would you like?
|Please collect the first half of both postcodes. This is an error on the form and it will be corrected.|
|What level of post-delivery audit will we be subject to for the fund?||There is no post-delivery audit. The registration, allocation and invoicing processes contain assurance measures, and we are relying on mediators’ Accredited status as assurance of the quality delivery of mediation.
|Can we incorporate the client consent to our agreement to mediate form so we don’t have to get additional forms signed and back?
|No, please keep the consent statements separate. The consent is part of our assurance processes and needs to be clear and not incorporated in other documents.|
|My clients are generally not signing the Agreement to Mediate but emailing or texting me to confirm they have read, understood and consent to it. This is because all mediations are online presently, and you are promoting online mediation with this scheme, so can this be done with the consent to the voucher scheme, otherwise this will cause delay?||Client consent can be in the form of a signed letter, scanned, or an e-mail to the mediator providing consent. Please make sure the letter or e-mail contains the required consent statements (which are set out on the voucher webpage).|
|Is there a consent form available for clients to sign? When I went to put in a request to the voucher scheme for a set of clients, it asked me to upload the client consent. I have emails from the clients consenting, but did you need them to sign a form instead and if so, is there a template available?||There is no standard consent form. The consent statements needed are here: https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Mediation-Voucher-Scheme-Client-Consent.docx
We haven’t produced a form because of potential difficulties in people ‘signing’ this remotely.
|Can I gain consent via a Google form?||How you obtain consent is up to you. The form of consent required is here: https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Mediation-Voucher-Scheme-Client-Consent.docx
Please remember that the consent provided needs to be uploaded as a document when requesting allocation of a voucher.
|If clients do not complete the feedback does the voucher get paid or is it conditional of the client completing the feedback?||Payment of the voucher fund is not conditional on submitting completed client questionnaires. Mediators are required to ask clients to complete the questionnaire, but clients are not obliged to complete or return this to the mediator.
|Can you confirm that the participant questionnaire should be sent to clients at the end of the mediation? In the closing email? Or do you envisage us gathering this information at consent giving stage?||As you will need to upload the client questionnaire(s) (if completed by the client) when you submit the data at the end of the case, before you submit your invoice, we suggest sending the client questionnaire early – with the consent statements would be ideal.
|Regarding the participant questionnaire, as this will only be able to be collated by you in a meaningful way if we all collect the same data, could you please send out a copy of this with all the possible options visible. I am specifically referring to the options for ethnic groups (as theses seem to be different from the LAA ones, is this right?), sexual orientation (no options given, there are various, what ones would you like us to give?), religion (again, no options given, please indicate which you want us to offer), legal marital status (again, it would be helpful if you set the options.)
|The participant questionnaire lists options for all questions. The options for the questions relating to diversity were provided by the MoJ and should not be changed.
It is possible that the options are not showing if viewed on a phone. We will produce a Word version of the same questionnaire an make this available as soon as possible.
|Amount allocated for each voucher|
|There is mention of ‘up to’ £500 per case/family. Assuming eligible, voucher still available and unique code supplied, will the amount of voucher be notified along with the unique code or is it a definite £500?
|£500 will be allocated to every voucher issued.
The scheme is expressed as provided ‘Up to’ £500 per case/family because in some cases the mediation costs will be less than £500.
|What can the £500 be used for?|
|Can the voucher cover MIAMs? At one point it says that MIAMs are not covered but then in the information about the invoicing it says that additional costs may be claimed such as MIAMs.
|Voucher funds are only for mediation sessions and cannot be used to pay for a MIAM.
Mediators will only be required to include the cost of any MIAM that is on a bill that is rendered to clients, and that also includes mediation session costs that voucher funds are being used to cover. The reason for this is that we are seeking to understand more about the number of sessions/hours that mediation cases take – if the cost of a MIAM is included in the total bill, we need to know that, so we can take in to account when analysing the data.
|Can the voucher cover the cost of a Parenting Plan being drawn up as well as the parties having attended a mediation session or is it purely for mediation meetings?||No, the voucher cannot be used to cover the cost of a Parenting Plan being drawn up. It is for mediation sessions only.|
|Can the voucher be used in cases where an interpreter is required?||Yes. If an interpreter is required for mediation sessions, and the cost of mediation (including any VAT) is less than £500, the remainder of the voucher can be used to contribute towards the cost of an interpreter. The mediator must take steps to ensure the interpreter’s charges are reasonable and submit the interpreter’s bill to email@example.com when the mediator’s invoice is uploaded to the system.|
|What if a client cancels? Can I still make a claim for a voucher?||No. You may charge your client usual cancellation fees, but you cannot claim under the scheme for mediation that has not taken place.|
|Costs above £500|
|I think many people will have had a look and will be wondering the same thing, as follows: are we able to charge additionally to the voucher, as it may well be that is takes it over the voucher sum?||You should charge your normal rates for mediation sessions, and bill the first £500 – inclusive of any VAT – to the Family Mediation Council.
The remainder should be billed to the clients in the usual way.
The voucher is intended to be a contribution to mediation costs, where those costs are over £500.
|Does the £500 have to be split equally between the parties regardless of their respective finances? What if they argue about who should get it/a proportion of it? If the overall bill comes to more than £500 do we bill the parties separately for the extra costs?
|The £500 comes off the final bill for mediation sessions. If the bill is more than £500 the remainder should be billed to your clients in your usual way (so if you usually split the cost 50/50, this is what you should continue to do with the amount outstanding).
|Invoices Under £500|
|What if mediation breaks down after one session and the entire voucher is then not used? Does the service get paid for one session pro rata as in the invoice?
|The voucher funds mediation session costs (including any VAT) up to £500. If the total invoice is lower, that amount will be paid.|
|Some services charge a flat rate for both face-to-face time as well as the time taken to write up proposals or a parenting plan – are both components included in the voucher or does one have to only record the face to face time in session?
|Any separate charges that are made for paperwork cannot be claimed under the voucher – the voucher covers mediation session costs.|
|Can the voucher be used to part pay fees e.g. my practice offers 3 x 1.5 hour joint mediation meetings for £1,000. Could participants purchase this package and claim the voucher against this and pay the £500 balance themselves?
|Yes. Please remembers the amount of mediation that the invoice cost covers (number of sessions/hours) still needs to be included on the invoice.|
|Find A Mediator Search|
|Will information about the scheme be added to the FMC ‘Find a Mediator’ search?
|Due to the short-term nature of this scheme, and the fact that most clients will find out about it through a mediator at a MIAM, there is currently no intention to add a search facility for mediators who offer this scheme to the Find A Mediator search.
|Will all Family Mediators be told when the fund monies run out and that the scheme is no longer effective by direct email?
|I propose that it would be a very good idea for you to set up a Zoom meeting for FMC members as soon as you can
to explain the new scheme and encourage a community approach.
|We considered a Zoom Q&A, but decided a written Q&A would be the right approach initially, so mediators can look at these in their own time.|
|To say I’m rather aghast at this going live today, the same day we are told about it.
|Under our agreement with the MoJ were not able to release this information earlier.
Doing so may also have had the effect of people delaying MIAMs until the start date of the scheme.