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It’s not about right or wrong, but about bringing people together

As Children in Scotland celebrates its 30th anniversary, Resolve Mediation Manager, Sandra Mitchell, explores the role of mediation, and how the service has adapted and achieved ongoing success over the years.

Resolve Mediation service has been delivering independent mediation within the Scottish education sector since 2004. We work with parents, carers, children, young people, education staff and practitioners to find a mutually agreeable resolution.

Our mediation approach is a collaborative way of assisting people to resolve and repair disputes, relationships and communication issues. It is not about who is ‘right’ or who is ‘wrong’.

We look at the present and the future rather than the past and bring together those who know the child or young person best.

Mediators do not judge or propose solutions. They facilitate a controlled and balanced conversation through questioning, encouraging people to listen to each other’s perspectives and explore issues, options and ways forward. The mediation atmosphere provides a safe place to have these cordial, constructive discussions. It is not combative. A skilled mediator supports and fosters good communication, trust and respect. These are all key to positive discussions leading to agreeable outcomes.

We would always recommend mediation is considered as early as possible in any dispute when people have stopped talking. We know the impacts that disputes and broken relationships can have on everyone’s wellbeing, stress levels and time however our skilled experienced mediators are on hand to provide a way to elevate these impacts in a respectful and trusting manner.

In many cases the mediation meeting is the opportunity to ‘reboot’ the relationship or communication. This in turn allows the issues to be addressed and we see this as an extremely successful and important outcome.

There are times that sharing and hearing information at the mediation meeting mean key people find solutions that had not been considered or even thought possible. It is also important to note that mediation agreements are not imposed upon people. They are mutually agreed outcomes, which have been proven to support and re-establish relationships between families and schools.

In early 2020, COVD-19’s very speedy spread suddenly shut down Resolve along with the rest of the world leaving us all dazed and quite unaware of what was to happen next.

In response to this we quickly realised we would need to move our service and move online to be able to continue to offer our service. This was a big challenge in many ways.

As a mediator for 25 years, I was always resistant to online or telephone mediation. I was passionate that the core component was the human aspect of being present with people who were in conflict and experiencing a wide range of emotions and behaviours.

However, any resistance to change – another very human response –was out of our control and we scrambled to set up procedures and processes so our service users could continue to resolve their disagreements, which had not gone away, and now had extra layers of pressures added due to the way we were having to live and communicate.

As the weeks went by and we all started to learn to live in lockdown, another new scary concept, we started to embrace and adapt to our new online delivery of mediation and to our delight and surprise it was not too painful.

In response to this we quickly realised we would need to move our service online to be able to continue to offer our service. This change allowed us and our mediation service to be more creative and invest in improving human connections thorough online mediation.

People who are in dispute, whatever it involves, carry a burden, unnecessary stress and upset which plagues them for months even years, eats up their time and puts unwanted pressures on their personal, professional life and relationships. To see the relief on their faces, and that they can finally move on with their life is priceless, especially when you know you have helped to achieve that albeit virtually or face to face.

Most concerns raised by parents, education staff were around using the technology, Teams, Zoom etc were quickly negated after trial runs and the support given by our mediation officer.

Our users started to tell us how they found it less time consuming- not having to travel, not having to have children looked after and that being in their own surroundings they felt more comfortable and confident to talk.

Nearly all feedback from our mediation users has told us that mostly they really valued that our service continued to connect them with the right people and support them to talk, listen and create solutions for their issues during extra stressful times and we ‘were still there for them’.

Reflecting on Resolve’s 20 year standing as the largest mediation provider in Scotland the pandemic brought us our biggest change and challenge and we are proud to say we did it and now have a fully hybrid mediation service.

Meet the team

Sandra Mitchell, Mediation Manager

Sandra leads the development, delivery and management of Resolve. She is committed to developing supportive relationships and good communication to ensure Resolve brings about positive change for practitioners, families and young people across Scotland.

“One of the best things about my job is actually being with people and seeing the pressures relieved after positive discussions,”

Alison Payne, Senior Mediation Officer

Alison manages the day-to-day service delivery and is the primary liaison and contact person for all referrals to Resolve

“It’s great to be an independent listener for people and be able to offer them help to look for ways to move forward from a stuck position.”

About the author

Resolve Mediation delivers independent mediations within the Scottish education sector

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