SFLA is committed to franchising, says chair

The Solicitors Family Law Association is committed to making a success of the franchising pilot for family mediation services, according to chair of the SFLA mediation committee Rosemary Carter.

Responding to the publication of the Legal Aid Board's approach to the pilots last week, Carter said: “Although we have some reservations about the appropriateness of franchising such vital services, we are pleased that we have been assured the SFLA will be carefully consulted as the pilot programme progresses and are committed to helping ensure this project is successful.”

The pilot is designed to meet the demand for mediation services created by the Family Law Act.

The first phase is due to begin this May and the Board describes the entire timetable, which envisages offering three-year contracts by the year 2000, as “challenging”.

The pilot will cover four different supplier arrangements: specialist mediation services, such as National Family Mediation; consortium arrangements, such as the Family Mediators' Association; partnerships between law firms and mediators; and solicitors with in-house mediation services.

Sir Tim Chessells, chair of the LAB, said: “We are taking the first steps down a road that could lead to a more amicable resolution of family disputes.

“Progress will depend on the cooperation and commitment from mediators and the legal profession.”