Child-Inclusive Mediation

“The right to be heard” is the subtitle of this new study by Anne Barlow and Jan Ewing. Although written in relation to the family justice system in England and Wales, it is also very relevant in Scotland given that we have fully incorporated the UNCRC and changes will come when the 2020 Children (Scotland) Act is implemented.

It highlights the mental health and wellbeing benefits to children when parents are brave enough to begin to cede authority to children so that they can participate meaningfully in decision making after parental separation in line with their evolving capabilities.

Child arrangements are about children’s lives post-separation and should involve the views of all family members. There is a tension in the UNCRC between the need to protect children (Article 3) and their right under article 12 to have a say in the direction of their lives. Family mediation needs to balance these two rights by finding ways to obtain children’s views but also support them in this process.

This book draws upon some of the results of the Healthy Relationship Transitions (HeaRT) study which tried to reduce the adverse consequences of parental conflict on child (and parental) health by exploring the impact of Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM). It collected data from relationships experts, mediators and members of separated families who had undertaken CIM.

Alongside reporting the results of this study these arrangements were considered alongside the Lundy’s Model for conceptualising Article 12 of the UNCRC. This model is designed around four dimensions, each which exist in a particular sequential order: Space, Voice, Audience and Influence.

SPACE is about providing a safe and inclusive space for children and young people to express their views; VOICE is about providing information and support for children and young people to express their views; AUDIENCE is about making sure children and young people’s views are communicated to the right people; and INFLUENCE is about ensuring children and young people’s views are taken seriously and acted upon wherever possible.