Mediating multi party disputes can be difficult, and a recent mediation case we worked on proved challenging for many reasons. The mediation referral involved 5 different households and a residential care home for children with complex needs. There had been numerous complaints from residents regarding disruptive behaviour of the children residing at the care home & what appeared to be the lack of action from care staff. The situation was having a negative impact on residents, who made constant complaints to Police, Councillors & their MP.
We made initial contact with each party, by telephone so that we could make arrangements to for their indivdiual visits, ensuring that someone of authority from the care home would be in attendance.
As mediators we spent an hour with each of them individually, at their properties. We were able to build rapport with them, which enabled them to feel relaxed & confident in being able to share things that were important to them. We listened to their concerns, showing empathy & understanding & used our questioning skills to move them from their positions to their interests, getting them to identify what practical things they needed for the situation to be improved / resolved.
A Community Conference was arranged & everyone attended. We opened the meeting by recognising the commitment by all to resolve the current situation, acknowledging the frustration felt & that things had been difficult in the past, but by entering into the mediation process they were empowering themselves in making decisions about a situation that was affecting them & therefore retaining control.
Everyone then briefly outlined their concerns & we summarised each statement, reframing inflammatory language when necessary & outlining the issues to be worked on. Parties were then invited to discuss what they had heard & come up with ideas about what needed to happen for the future to be improved.
Agreements were reached around future communication, how they could all work towards developing a more cohesive neighbourhood & how residents could raise concerns over children’s behaviour. Agreement points were captured on a mediation pro forma, which was signed by all in attendance on the understanding it was not a legally binding document, but a reminder of what they had agreed to do for each other to try to resolve the situation.