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Hastings and Rother Mediation Service

Our local mediation service

Recently, Hastings & Rother Mediation Service received some funding from The Safer Hastings Partnership, currently allocated for supporting neighbours in dispute. IF you find yourself in conflict or disagreement with a neighbour, it’s now possible to self-refer in Hastings and St Leonards. Alison Cooper, Neighbourhood Mediation Co-ordinator and Trainer, talks with HOT’s Zelly Restorick.

ZR: What sort of issues does the Mediation Service deal with?

AC: As you can imagine, we come across a whole spectrum of issues. We can work with neighbours who are experiencing difficulties with noise – including loud music, building work, dogs barking, cockerels crowing, boundary disputes – like fence maintenance or over-hanging trees. Anti-social behaviour – like a person feeling scared or inhibited because of what they feel to be threatening, rude or bullying behaviour from a neighbour or on social media, gossiping with other neighbours and so making life difficult for the other person, unreasonable behaviour ie, throwing their rubbish into another neighbour’s garden or putting cameras up pointing towards the neighbour’s windows or garden. Parking – meaning cars being blocked into a driveway or someone working on cars all over the driveway.

ZR: Are there things you can’t get involved with?

AC: We can’t get involved if it’s a legal matter that requires specialist knowledge or bad workmanship by outside businesses for example. However, if there was a case where neighbours are in the process of dealing with the problem by going to a solicitor or court AND wanted to mediate, we would ask them to put any pending legal proceedings on pause. Otherwise it sends out mixed messages: on the one hand, receiving very formal letters from solicitors, whilst on the other, wanting to mediate and find a mutually-agreed, more friendly, resolution. Better to pause the legal proceedings and see if the legal method of dealing with things can be avoided.”

Welcome at Hastings and Rother Mediation Service

ZR: Is the mediation service independent?

AC: Hastings and Rother Mediation Service is independent, impartial, confidential – and currently free of charge in Hastings and St Leonards. We also cover the Rother area.

What is mediation and how does it work?

Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party helps disputing parties work out their own agreement/s. The party involved, not the mediator, decide the terms of this agreement.

Mediation seeks to:

Change disputing behaviour

Resolve conflict

Build realistic, workable agreements

Maintain balance between the parties

Treat people fairly

ZR: How does a person self-refer?

AC: Call the office number and speak to one of the team… more than likely it will be me you’ll talk with. Some details are needed, like your address, contact details, what the issue is, how long it’s been going on, has there been any communication between the people involved and what would you want in the future as a resolution? We need to have the details of the other person/s – or ‘party’ – so we can contact them.

Hastings & Rother Mediation Service

Alison Cooper : Neighbourhood Coordinator: 01424 446808 / 07510 357130 or email: neighbourhood@hrmediation.co.uk

ZR: What happens after a referral?

AC: Once referred, we send them a letter of introduction with a leaflet about mediation. Two mediators are then assigned to the case. One of these mediators will call the person to organise a first meeting, either face to face in our Covid-safe office or via Zoom. This meeting would just be themselves and the mediators – not the other party.

The initial meeting is to discover more information about the issue and what’s involved, how it’s impacting their life, how they feel about it – and how they would like things to be in the future.

We then ask if they would like us to contact the other party. If yes, we send a similar letter to the other party involved. Our service operates a voluntary participation and engagement policy: we ask the other party if they are willing to engage.

We can’t guarantee that the other party will get involved, but they often do.
If/when the second party contacts us & wants to engage, they then have their own individual meeting with the mediators to discuss their issues. All the same questions are asked.

It’s unusual that someone says: “I have no idea that there is any problem whatsoever”, but it does happen.

Listening!

ZR: What happens when the different parties get together?

AC: We always encourage people to have a face-to-face meeting. We call this a ’round table’. The meeting takes place either in our office or on Zoom, depending on how comfortable they feel. This involves both parties and both mediators.

The Round Table is a very structured and safe meeting space. There is a finely tuned process, so parties cannot just rant and rave- we have respectful guidelines to adhere to and the mediators are very experienced in managing these meetings extremely well, so it’s fair and as comfortable for everyone as possible.

For the individual and ’round table’ meetings, each party can bring along a person for support, if needed.

ZR: How can mediation help?

AC: There are many opportunities and points in the mediation process where people have the chance to talk and be listened to without judgement or belittling the problem. In the initial meeting, just to speak to someone who actually listens, to have a voice and get it off their chest can make a huge difference for most people.

Then to have the chance to meet for a ’round table’ – to ask questions of their neighbours, to better understand each other’s lives and what they each have to deal with – face-to-face in a safe, supportive environment – can be really illuminating and healing. A lot of what we do is about improving communication between people. We support them in finding ways to communicate better.

During the ’round table’ we write out a ‘Mediation Outcomes Summary’. This lists the agreements the neighbours have worked together to find, we write it exactly as they both want it written and they sign it. We type this up and send them out to each party involved. This ‘contract’ is not legally-binding but because they’ve worked hard to create it and they may a sense of ownership of it, most people will stick to it.

In addition, they may have learned some skills about how to better deal with problems in the future.

Specially adapted meeting room

ZR: And HRMS offers inter-generational mediation too?

AC: Our Inter-generational Mediation Service is called ‘Time 2 Talk’ and this is to offer support between parents and children that are struggling to communicate effectively with each other. It helps prevent family breakdown and thus, young people becoming homeless. This service is also free, for young people between the ages of 8 – 18 and open to families living in Hastings & Rother.

Alison Rouncivell : 01424 446808 or email: time2talk@hrmediation.co.uk

Interested in getting involved? In March 2022, Hastings & Rother Mediation Service is offering training for volunteer mediation recruits. (See poster for details.)

Volunteer mediation training poster

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Posted 15:43 Friday, Aug 6, 2021 In: Grassroots

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