Working with Supporters

Ms K and Ms C have lived in a block of flats managed by a mental health charity for a number of years.  It is a very stable community where everyone knows everyone and both the tenants have assured tenancies, so re-housing would be a poor option. Both parties have mental health issues and are in their 40s. An unsuccessful mediation between them had been attempted a couple of years previously through the charity.

Missing Link referred the case to Bristol Mediation.  The presenting issues for this case were the noise from a frequently used washing machine, clearing up dog waste, the use of a garden bench and the breakdown of their relationship.

Through the assessment phone calls made by caseworkers, it was decided that both parties required a supporter present for the meetings as both presented as being vulnerable.

Mediators were allocated to the case who were sensitive and with relevant experience and skills and visited Ms K first with her mother was present to support her.  It immediately become obvious that this was a complicated case as Ms K presented with high levels of anxiety and was very worried about the state of her flat.  She alleged that excessive use of the washing machine by her neighbor. Additional allegations included pacing and the use of a garden chair directly outside her bathroom window.  She said she wasn’t sleeping properly, lacked concentration and felt very anxious.  She explained that at one time she and Ms C had been quite close. She was concerned around financial issues and was looking to improve her life by taking a course however for this she would require a quiet space to work. She was reluctant to meet her neighbor face to face but was prepared to consider a shuttle mediation.

The mediators then visited Ms C. She complained that her neighbor had turned the other neighbours against her and was upset by the complaints. And also that her neighbor allowed a dog she looked after to foul the garden and didn’t clear it up. She explained that she uses her washing machine frequently because of a medical condition.  She also likes to sit at the front of the house in the sun.

It was felt that both parties needed additional support in finding ways to express their needs and reassure them about the structure of the meeting so second visits were arranged. On the second visit, mediators worked with the parties individually with their supporters present to form a draft to include what they wanted to achieve from mediation. For both parties this included respect and neighbourliness, and then a list of the particular issues was drawn up, with preferred ways forward.

This draft formed framework for the shuttle and each party was given a copy This second visit was vital to the success of the shuttle meeting.

The shuttle was arranged in a neutral venue with each party bringing a supporter.

The mediators structured the meeting carefully so that the agreed points could be considered in turn. Both parties asked the mediators to explain to the other party how they felt about aspects of their disputes with each other.

Individual presenting issues were also explored with agreed solutions which were written down by both parties.

Some time was spent reaching general agreement on both their needs to stay in their present homes, to be free from anxiety caused by their neighbour’s behaviours, and that they wanted to be good neighbours.  The concept of neighbourliness and the need for respect was explored and how it differed from friendship.  It was agreed that issues and discussions between them would not be shared with the other people in the block.

By the end of two hours, an agreement had been drawn up covering all of the presenting issues, and that there would be a 3 month review and within this time, the supporters would agree to provide continued support if required.

Feedback from parties after the case closed:

Both parties stated that through their involvement their understanding of the other person had improved and that they felt more able to deal with any differences which might arise with their neighbor in the future.

 

3 month review feedback:

 

Both parties were happy with the agreement and no further problems have arisen.

 

Referrer’s feedback (Resettlement worker at Missing Link):

 

Did you find it useful being able to refer to our service?

“Yes. Because our service users have complex needs and required specialist skills in order to help them resolve their issues. Missing Link became unable to manage or help the service users to resolve their issues and things were escalating.”