“Having worked in an ASB role and triage for 12 weeks, the Mediation Service has been invaluable. When clients come through who really need something separate to enforcement, in order to deescalate a situation and help both parties resolve the issue in a supportive and listened to way, being able to refer them to mediation has been a very important resource, and one that, I believe, will have longer held impact and benefit for the future.”
– Anti Social Behaviour Officer, Norwich City Council
What we do
This year our community Mediation Service has worked side by side with social housing providers, local authorities and the police to help residents and tenants to navigate and resolve conflicts in their neighbourhood and to support those who can’t take part in mediation to build confidence, coping skills and resilience.
Those referring cases to us have huge demands on their time and are rarely considered to be impartial due to their enforcement role. Often the cases don’t have clear perpetrators and victims and the circumstances are difficult to evidence, making it very difficult for them to take action. Having access to a skilled and independent mediation service allows them to offer the people they serve the support to find a way out of their situation, saving them time and resource.
We aim to help neighbours to communicate safely and to facilitate the best possible conversation between them and their neighbours, directly or indirectly. We try to find ways they can manage conflicts differently in the future and, where possible, to help those whose neighbours can’t or won’t mediate – always aiming to be accessible, practical and person-centred in our practice.
This year we have…
- received 224 new referrals and worked on a total of 304 cases,
- worked with 507 households comprising of nearly 900 people, and
- conducted over 1,500 phone calls and held over 100 meetings with service users to help people find solutions.
It has been a feature of recent years that the mental health of our service users has become an increasingly significant issue and the services available to support them are ever more stretched. Perhaps exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, this year, has been no exception and the number of people touched by the service who consider their mental health a disability has gone up by more than 25%.
As always, we strive to make the service as accessible as possible with the aim that someone’s mental health does not prove a barrier to using the service. We work flexibly, face to face where people feel comfortable or over the phone, offering face to face or shuttle mediation and individual support over the longer term to help people navigate conflict. We have the freedom and autonomy to build supportive relationships and to continue working with people until they feel confident to manage the situation themselves. Wherever we can, we continue to support our service users with mental health struggles in communicating with their neighbours, helping them to understand each other better and find ways to manage the issues between them more constructively.
Impact for service users
In the current economic climate, stress on families is building and this can feed into neighbourhood conflict and levels of tension and tolerance. Mediation and, importantly, the process that leads to it can give people an appropriate outlet for their frustration and allow them to access safe and effective ways to communicate with their neighbours. It is vital for them to be able to access our service – free at the point of use – to avoid tension spilling over into altercations that end up needing enforcement action, intervention by the police, or less visibly, deteriorating mental health.
While not always straightforward, the outcomes of community mediation can be life-changing. Home should be a sanctuary from the outside world. Neighbours in dispute can feel unsafe in their homes, nervous to go in their gardens or leave the flat. Mediation can allow everyone to be heard and understood and helps people to make practical plans to avoid conflict in the future, reducing stress and allowing people to move on from situations that have, in some cases, dominated their lives for years.
- 71% of respondents said that their issue had been resolved by working with Catch22.
- 93% of respondents said that their issue had been improved by working with Catch22.
- 91% of those who felt it relevant to them, felt their mental health improved, and 88% felt less stressed when their case closed.
- 91% of those who felt it relevant to them, felt safer when their case closed.
- 86% of those who felt it relevant to them felt more confident to cope with future conflict when their case closed.
- 92% of those who felt it relevant to them felt more able to enjoy life after their case closed.
Impact for referrers
Neighbour disputes can prove extremely time consuming and expensive for referring agencies. They often result in multiple phone calls, complaints and visits taking up scarce time and resource. This year, when asked for feedback on the service:
- 91% said our intervention stopped the situation escalating.
- 90% said they no longer needed to take enforcement action.
- 98% said the number of calls they received about the case stopped or reduced.
- 100% would recommend the service to others.
Outcome of closed cases
This is based on our best knowledge of case outcomes. This could be service user or referrer feedback or information from the last follow up conversations we were able to have. Cases can have many complex features and we rarely turn cases away so results are mixed and this aims to give a clear representation of the range of outcomes and the reasons for them.
A few cases also had an unknown outcome – where the service user withdrew or did not engage in follow-up conversations.
- 32 cases improved by advice or support only.
- 31 cases resolved by communication.
- 21 cases improved by communication.
- 15 cases resolved by advice or support only.
- 12 cases resolved by inviting to mediate.
- 10 cases resolved with no intervention.
- 3 cases closed due to successful single person support.
- 2 cases improved by inviting to mediate.
- 2 cases resolved by liaison.
- 28 cases were closed because the neighbour did not engage.
- 13 cases were closed because the situation was not suitable for mediation.
- 9 cases were closed because no progress was possible.
- 6 cases were closed because they did not wish to contact neighbour.
- 17 cases were signposted to other services.
Working in partnership
After many years of working with Norwich City Council, our innovative Self-Referral Community Conflict service, co-designed with the City’s Community Safety team, is now well established as part of the toolkit Norwich residents can access to address neighbourhood conflict issues. They can refer themselves directly via the council website, which presents a diverse set of problems that we work with the service user to find solutions to. This could lead to mediation, just exchanging information, working with only one party to manage the situation, or connecting them to other agencies that can help them. Alongside this, we continue to provide a traditional mediation service to the Antisocial Behaviour team.
We have a longstanding relationship with Clarion Housing who have been referring neighbour dispute cases to us for over 10 years to give their tenants access to a constructive way to tackle antisocial behaviour and neighbourhood conflict.
We are entering our fifth year of working with Ipswich Borough Council, which means that Ipswich Housing Officers can refer mediation and individual support cases when tenants are having issues with their neighbours. Mediation forms part of the council’s early intervention strategy to tackle antisocial behaviour.
We are also into our second year of working with Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils and have been working on cases ranging from complex multi-party issues to single party support.
“Brilliant communication from [the mediator]: regular updates, excellent communication and, after they took on the case, the calls to me stopped and we didn’t receive any further complaints from either party. I received information from one of the parties to the mediation to compliment [the mediator’s] work/involvement.”
– Housing Officer, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils
We have worked with Suffolk Police for over eight years allowing officers to refer timeconsuming antisocial behaviour and neighbour dispute cases to us. Feedback from officers showed that, irrespective of the outcome of a mediation referral, the service has saved police officers time and been a very useful resource to call on.
We also work with other local authorities and housing associations on a spot purchase basis, providing mediation work and conflict resolution training.
We work together with each commissioner in a way that best suits the needs of their organisation, in order to make the service easy to use and supplying commissioners with the information they need. We have attended multi agency meetings, Housing Officer team meetings and Police Safer Neighbourhood Team meetings to raise awareness of the service and help people to use it as effectively as possible. This year our referring officers providing feedback gave us an average of 4.9/5.
- “Great to have someone staying in touch and caring about if things are alright. You helped us sort things out and now I can ignore my neighbour instead of getting angry.”
- “My neighbours did not talk to the mediator, but talking with him enabled me to find the strength to talk with them myself and the problems then stopped.”
- “Since the mediation has taken place, we have only had one complaint of noise within the last four months. Our relationship with the local residents has improved and there have been no complaints over parking: a really great result.
- “You knew exactly how to handle it and how to talk to them about the problem and it’s worked really. I had no idea what to do and I couldn’t talk to him myself. You’re brilliant!”
- “All of the help and support I received from [the mediator] was helpful. I am really looking forward to life now.”
- “I was able to start talking to my neighbour. The issues went away and I could relax in my own house again. Couldn’t have been better.”
- “Thank you for being so kind. I feel a lot better with the neighbours now and it’s been really good to have your support all this time.”
- “Just having someone to talk to and support me at this time was really helpful for me. Things are looking much better now and I was pleased to have Catch22 support me when I was uncertain of my future.”
- “[The mediator] really listened to my concerns over my mental health and was always very patient.”
- “I think Catch22 just getting the council to send a letter suggesting mediation has been enough for the antisocial behaviour to subside. The difference and quality to our lives has been huge.”
- “Having someone to talk to was the biggest help. You have given some excellent advice on other issues and even though my neighbour didn’t talk to you, the noise stopped and even after all these weeks it’s stayed quiet.”
- “My neighbour and I are not only talking, but we are meeting for coffee and have managed to repair our friendship which I missed. My neighbour understands me now and I work differently with my children in an effort to help reduce the noise.”