The skill of a mediator is to be able to see both sides of situation or conflict and take a neutral position. It’s not to impose solutions but to help the parties involved find their own.
Luton Mediation has been offering this free service in Luton since 1993, and so plays a vital role in helping keep harmony and avoiding discord within the community – often between neighbours.
One such example was an issue between Mr B and Mrs M, who’d been neighbours for three years.
Low-level issues between them began shortly after Mrs M’s ex-husband occasionally arrived at her property and caused trouble.
Tensions began to focus on parking space arrangements and then over barbecue smoke, which resulted in in water being sprayed over the fence with a hosepipe.
Things became increasingly worse and the police were called on numerous occasions.
Both parties were upset. Mr B had no idea why the situation had got to this point and his young children were becoming more distressed.
At the start of mediation, matters were heated. Both parties had English as a second language and so it was tricky at times for them to understand each other’s point of view. But over time, both sides agreed that they had been at fault and were able to talk through their issues.
They agreed that they were happy to knock on each other’s doors in future. An agreement was written and both parties said they felt relieved the situation had been resolved.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have been supported by Luton Rising,” said Debbie Gibbons.
“It’s allowed us to continue to offer our service which is so important for Luton’s neighbourhoods and people’s emotional wellbeing. Some of our customers have been at rock bottom when they contact us and some disputes we deal with have been ongoing for many years.
“People tell us they are afraid to leave their homes as a result of their dispute with their neighbour and are so grateful that they are finally ‘being heard’.”
The volunteers are trained in conflict resolution and represent Luton’s diverse community. They’re impartial, non-judgmental and are able to identify and help resolve the underlying causes of conflict.
Their job is to discuss past events, and also to focus on future behaviours, reaching a positive outcome for all parties.
Debbie said: “Being unable to relax or feel safe in your own home has a massive effect on people’s mental health so the benefits of mediation are really felt by those who have affected by dispute.
“Although it’s difficult to measure the monetary value, by dealing with conflicts in this way it can mean they don’t escalate further and so may result in savings to housing providers, the police and medical services. There is also a reduction in antisocial behaviour which benefits the community as a whole.
“Luton Rising funding has allowed us to train and retain our mediators which means we can continue to provide a quality, free service to Luton residents. That’s dealing with around 105 cases a year and over 250 people.”