Family mediation: resolving problems at home

If you have to leave home because of family arguments, or if your parents kick you out, you may be able to resolve your problems through mediation. A mediator doesn't tell you what to do; instead they help you and your parents or carers talk through your problems and reach a satisfactory agreement. You won't be pressured into going back home if you don't want to.

Getting help from a mediation service

Many young people leave home not because they want to but because family arguments are making life at home impossible. This may be because:

  • they feel that their parents or carers still treat them like a child

  • they don't get on with a new partner or stepparent who's come to live in the family home

  • their parents or carers don't approve of their lifestyle or of decisions they've made.

Often, young people become homeless as a result of these kind of arguments, either because they leave home in a hurry and have nowhere to go, or because their parents or carers kick them out.

If you're in this situation, you may be able to get help from a mediation service.

What does a mediator do?

A mediator is someone who can help you and your parents or carers sort out your problems. They don't take sides and they don't tell you what to do. Instead, they help you work things out for yourselves. Often, family arguments are made worse because people won't talk or listen to each other. A mediator can help you resolve arguments by talking things through together calmly and listening to each other's viewpoints.

How do I find a mediator?

Not all councils have mediation services, so this option may not be available to you when you make a homeless application. If you feel you would like to try to sort things out with your family through mediation, you can contact a mediator directly - visit the Scottish Mediation website to find a service near you.

Do I have to see a mediator?

The council can't force you to see a mediator if you don't want to. If you feel you're being pushed into something you're not happy about, talk to an adviser at a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice, who should be able to negotiate with the council on your behalf. If you're under 19, you could also call ChildLine on 0800 1111.

If you leave home and have nowhere safe to go, your first stop should be your local council's housing department, to make a homeless application. If you have left home because of family arguments, your homelessness officer may suggest that you and your parents or carers see a mediator, to try and sort out the problems you are having. If you agree to this, the council will put you in touch with a mediation service.

Do I have to make a homeless application before I can see a mediator?

No. If you're having problems at home and think that it would help to talk things through with a mediator, you can get in touch with a mediation service directly. You can find a service near you at the Scottish Mediation.

What happens during mediation?

Once you have agreed to see a mediator, they will contact your parents or carers and ask them if they are prepared to take part in the mediation process as well. The mediator will probably see you all individually first, to give everyone a chance to explain their side of the story in private.

Next, provided everyone is happy to go on to the next stage, the mediator will arrange a joint meeting. They'll probably lay down some ground rules first, such as no shouting, no interrupting and no offensive language.

At the meeting, everyone will be given a chance to explain how the situation is affecting them. Try and be as honest as you can, but without insulting or blaming your parents and carers. Listen carefully to what they've got to say as well, and try to see things from their point of view. The mediator will make sure that you all understand what's being said, and that everyone has a chance to respond.

The mediator will then help you sort out the problems and decide what to do next. They won't tell you what to do, but will help you work out a solution yourselves. You may find that once you start listening to each other and talking calmly and honestly, you reach a solution fairly easily.

What happens when we reach a solution?

At the end of the mediation process, you may decide that you want to go back home to your family. If your parents or carers had originally thrown you out, they may decide that they want you to come back.

However, the aim of mediation is not to make you go back home if you don't want to. The mediator's role is to help you reach an agreement that everyone can accept. This might be:

  • that you will return home to live with your family

  • that you will return home temporarily until you can find somewhere else to live

  • that you won't come back home, but will stay in touch with your family.

The mediator will probably write down everything you've decided. You may be asked to sign a copy of the agreement. This isn't a legal contract; it's just to help you remember what you've agreed on. For example, if you've agreed to return home, you may well also have established some ground rules with your parents or carers, to prevent more arguments in the future.

How long will mediation take?

The whole mediation process usually takes a couple of weeks, although this will vary depending on the complexity of your problems and how prepared everyone is to cooperate.

Is mediation confidential?

Yes. Anything you say to the mediator or in front of the mediator during a session stays with the mediator. They won't pass any information on to other agencies, such as the council's housing department, social work or the police, unless you want them to.

Will mediation affect my homeless application?

Mediation is a separate process from making a homeless application, and is usually provided by an independent agency that isn't part of the council.

The housing department can't put your homeless application on hold until you have tried mediation and decided whether or not to return to your family's home.

If you have nowhere to stay, the council has to offer you a place in temporary accommodation and while the mediation process is going on, it must carry on looking into your situation to see what kind of help it should offer you. Whatever goes on during the mediation process shouldn't affect the council's decision to help you.

If you decide after the mediation is over that you want to return home, you can then tell the council and they'll end your homeless application. If you decide to move out of temporary accommodation and back into your parents' place while the council are looking into your situation but don't want to move back home permanently, this shouldn't affect your application either.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 3 July 2018

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