I was delighted to take part in a CPD course provided by May Millward, project officer of Scottish Mediation (SM) which is the professional body for mediation in Scotland, on 11 September 2018, the aim of which was to disseminate information about, and knowledge of, the Third Sector Mediation Project (TSMP) provided to all third sector organisations by SM.
Tracey Bird of SCVO was also present and explained that the third sector covers a huge panoply of different kinds of organisations, including charities, voluntary sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). All of them share being not-for-profit organisations as a common characteristic. Where such profits are generated, they are always reinvested. There are approximately 40,000 such third sector bodies in Scotland, with approximately 24,000 of these being charities. There are 5000 social enterprises (such as Social Bite), 100 credit unions and 163 housing associations. Two thirds of these organisations operate locally, with only 7% operating nationally and 2% internationally.
This sector in Scotland has a turnover of 3.5 billion and is a major contributor to the Scottish economy. It includes 1.2 million volunteers in Scotland, amounting to 27% of Scotland’s adult population and 250,000 trustees. Board members, including chairs, are not paid. It also employs 106,000 people-one in 25 of all Scottish employees-62% of whom work in health and social care. It is a significant part of the Scottish economy.
The TSMP was begun in October 2015-the brainchild of May Millward of SM-in conjunction with SCVO. The aim was to encourage the use of mediation to help resolve interpersonal conflicts within the third sector. The barriers were thought to be awareness (lack of it) amongst the third sector about the availability of mediation and what it was, and also mediation’s potentially significant cost. Amongst other things, what had to be got out, particularly to smaller third sector organisations such as charities, was the availability of mediation under the new scheme and that it could be obtained either at no cost pro bono, or provided at a pretty modest cost, by mediators who were members of Scottish Mediation.
Third sector mediation was to be made available by SM. It is open to all third sector organisations including charities and voluntary groups. A fee structure was set up as follows.
Fee-this depends upon the actual income of the third sector organisation.
Up to £50,000 income per annum-mediation is provided pro bono for one day.
£50,000-£250,000, mediation will cost £300 per day.
£250,000 plus, mediation will cost £100 per hour.
This service is accessed through Scottish Mediation. It contrasts incredibly favourably to the cost of private sector mediation. Mediation is provided by 44 mediators-35 from SM who have volunteered to join the TSMP panel-seven from Scottish Power and two from the Department of Work and Pensions-the latter all also volunteers.
Additionally, SM operates a Mediation Helpline which can be accessed separately, where the charge for mediation is £100 per hour. In terms of the scheme, in the event mediation is paid for, mediators pay SM 10% of their fee-thus some the money which is paid for the mediation service is ploughed back into it.
SM has also introduced a Co-Mediation panel in June 2017 so that people who wish to train to become mediators can obtain live experience as co-mediators working with experienced mediators-it is a prerequisite of joining the Scottish Mediator Register, that the applicant has the requisite mediation experience. This is an excellent and admirable development.
In the three years since the scheme was introduced there has been a steady increase in the number of calls to the helpline and a steady increase in the number of cases being mediated.
Interpersonal disputes mediated include, disputes between third sector employees, between board members, between chairs and chief executives and also between volunteers. These interpersonal disputes can be upsetting and unsettling not just for those involved directly, but also for others in the organisation, who can be indirectly involved and affected. Indeed, such disputes can have wider ramifications for the whole organisation-particularly for smaller organisations. It is crucial therefore that SM is making mediators available to the third sector, in a very affordable way, to assist with the resolution of these internal disputes.
In addition to providing mediation after the event SM is also happy to consider helping provide mediators to facilitate discussions within third sector organisations where there are difficult or divisive issues that need to be discussed as part of taking the organisation forward. Members of these organisations have expressed concern at taking part in such meetings, where sides can be entrenched and where strong personalities are involved. In such circumstances a mediator may be able to help facilitate such discussions by speaking with parties beforehand, and also potentially taking part in such meetings. The skills developed by mediators, enable helping parties to hear each other’s views, perspectives, positions and understanding their interests. This can assist people in reaching compromised positions, that enable organisations and their plans to be taken forward positively.
Additionally, SM is keen to help third sector members consider embedding mediation into internal complaints policies and procedures with a view to them using mediation as a primary method of workplace dispute resolution, rather than simply regarding grievance and disciplinary procedure as the main or only form of dispute resolution.
Many of us will be volunteers on third sector boards and it is important for all of us to make the availability of this excellent mediation scheme for the third sector more widely known. That way we can assist in dispute resolution, without causing unnecessary costly legal conflict, and allow these excellent third sector bodies to concentrate on doing what they were set up to do!
Paul Kirkwood is a Solicitor and a Commercial Mediator. He runs MNCRS (Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Services). He is also a member of Scottish Mediation and a volunteer on their third sector mediation panel.
Posted by Paul Kirkwood on 20th September 2018. Paul is a commercial mediator registered with the Scottish Mediation Network who has also practised as a litigation solicitor for 24 years and is a director of MNCRS Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Services.