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THE KNOWLEDGE IN HOUSE

Helping neighbours become good friends

September 2012

Police Community Support Officers are integral to the new Moat/AmicusHorizon mediation scheme

Police Community Support Officers are integral to the new Moat/AmicusHorizon mediation scheme

Moat and AmicusHorizon have joined forces to create a new mediation service to tackle low-level anti-social behaviour cases. And who better to take on the role of volunteer mediators than staff and residents?

Pam Millington
Area Business Manager
Moat

Overcoming a fear of dogs

AmicusHorizon has recently made use of an external mediator in a case where, in future, our volunteer mediators would be perfectly placed.

A young disabled resident was housebound and terrified of dogs. Her neighbours worked full-time leaving two dogs in the house during the day. The dogs barked whenever parcels were delivered and the situation quickly escalated with the resident getting very distressed. Once friends, the two households were now arguing regularly.

After some persuasion the neighbours agreed to mediation. The dog owners were horrified to find out the extent of their neighbour’s distress, and arranged for a dog-sitter to come and watch the dogs more often. Their parcels were also delivered elsewhere.

AmicusHorizon’s resident visited her neighbours to meet the dogs and try to get over her phobia, but most importantly, they agreed to talk to each other if similar issues arose again.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is an important issue for housing associations to address and makes up a significant portion of our neighbourhood teams’ workload.

Jill Kent (Homes and Communities Manager at AmicusHorizon) and I meet regularly because our areas of operation overlap, and one day back in 2011 we decided that there had to be a more efficient and effective way to tackle some of the low-level ASB without resorting to paying for external mediators, or risking escalation and more serious issues.

More effective and efficient approach

It seemed to both of us that, with the right training and support, we could set up a mediation service ourselves. This approach would allow for a more effective and efficient approach to ASB, as well as encouraging resident independence.

Following our chat, I got the ball rolling and got in touch with UK Mediation. I’d heard about a scheme another housing provider had set up, using their specially tailored and accredited training programme. If we were going to do this, we were going to do it properly!

Accredited training

The training provides successful attendees with an Open College Network Accredited Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate. This qualification is recognised by the Law Society and is the recognised standard for those wishing to work as mediators in the workplace.

The hope is that this will also help to support residents into work in the future. Moat will become a member of the UK Register of Mediators.

Volunteers

We knew that mediators would have to be volunteers, otherwise the programme wouldn’t provide any more value for money than existing mediators. We also decided that they’d have to live and/or work within our communities. To make the mediation as fair and impartial as possible, AmicusHorizon staff and residents should mediate Moat cases, and vice versa.

Since the main areas of overlap for AmicusHorizon and Moat are Medway and Swale, we decided to roll this out here to start with and we’ll manage cases out of our Stanhope office, in Ashford. We started advertising via resident newsletters, flyers at open days and on the ‘Moat on the move’ mobile office, and via staff newsletters and internal communications.

Between Moat and AmicusHorizon, we’ve now received 35 applications from staff and five from residents, and we’ve extended the deadline to encourage more residents to get involved.

Shortlist

Jill has already shortlisted the AmicusHorizon staff list to five, via telephone interview and I’m currently doing the same. Once we’ve got a final shortlist for both staff and resident applicants, the next step is a formal interview, including a role play when actors will play victim and perpetrator, requiring interviewees to act as mediator.

A serious role

Interviews took place at the end of August, and training will begin at the end of September. Successful applicants will have to submit some coursework in order to get their final certificate – we appreciate that mediation is a serious role and the coursework is final proof of applicants’ commitment!

We’re also holding mediation awareness sessions for additional staff in our neighbourhoods and customer service teams. We’ll invite local PCSOs and wardens to make sure that referrals are processed properly and they fully understand what we’re planning.

Changing attitudes

We’re not suggesting that our volunteer mediators manage the more serious and embedded ASB issues in some of our communities.

The intention is that by properly addressing more minor ASB at rst instance, in a down-to-earth, human and practical way, we reduce the build-up of low-level cases and potential escalation into fullblown trickier cases.

It’s a great opportunity to do something innovative and for residents and staff to do something outside their comfort zone. ASB is never going to disappear completely, but that doesn’t mean we just accept it as a way of life for certain families and neighbourhoods.

I have every faith that our scheme with AmicusHorizon will succeed in changing attitudes to managing ASB, and encourage residents to take responsibility not only for their homes, but for their communities.