A request was made for a community mediation conference from a local authority, involving 7 residents on the same street who had been making numerous complaints about children’s behaviour to the Police and the council's Anti-Social Behaviour Team.
There had been strong differences of opinion about how children should behave when playing in the street and a breakdown in communication had occurred between residents, which had led to many complaints to various agencies.
We established contact with most of the parties within a few hours of receiving the referral and arranged appointments to see them over the course of a couple of days the following week. The residents were thankful to have the opportunity to meet with us and raise their concerns and highlight the impact of the situation on them. There were strong opinions about what the children were doing and how their parents were dealing with the perceived misbehaviour on one side, and on the other, the way the complainants were communicating their concerns, especially when approaching the children directly.
Where it was appropriate, the children sat in on these initial private meetings with their parents and the mediators, giving them the opportunity to say how they felt about what was happening and what they would like to see change in the future.
Everyone was interested in finding a way forward, especially with the warmer weather approaching as the children would be playing out more and the dispute could potentially escalate. All the residents agreed to attend a community meeting. As the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) and Police Constable (PC) had been heavily involved with this case, we felt it was appropriate that they be involved in the meeting, giving them the opportunity to contribute to the discussions and any agreement the residents reached. Both the PC and PCSO were pleased to be invited to attend.
A community conference was arranged within a couple of weeks of the initial individual visits being completed. The date was set, meeting invitations were sent to everyone, a venue arranged, a seating plan organised and an additional “host” mediator identified in the event that the parties may need additional support at the meeting.
We arrived at the venue in plenty of time to arrange the room according to our seating plan and distribute an agenda and guidelines for how the meeting was to be run before everyone arrived. The meeting began with a brief introduction from ourselves after which we invited residents to speak in turn to outline their concerns, describe the impact on them and highlight what they needed for the future to be improved. After everyone had this opportunity, we were able to identify key issues for discussion and set the focus for the meeting.
As the meeting progressed the residents were able to develop understanding of the different perspectives and discover new information. With helpful contributions from the PC and PCSO, it soon became apparent that everyone had a common interest and that was the well-being of the children. Everyone agreed they needed to play out, but also that they needed to be respectful of other people’s gardens and property.
Several areas of agreement were determined and we drafted the agreement points that outlined what each person present was willing to do to improve the situation for the future. All the agreement points were mutually acceptable to everyone present and included a means of future communication should there be any further difficulties.
The meeting ended with a real understanding developed from both sides. They all shook hands and thanked each other for attending the meeting and agreeing to make changes. The PC and PCSO also thanked the residents for working so hard to resolve their difficulties, in what had been a dispute spanning a couple of years that had resulted in numerous call outs, reports and complaints.
Community spirit shone through for these residents who really all wanted the same thing – to be able to live in peace on their street and get along with their neighbours.