Meet Alexis Walker - Bradford Family Mediator of Williscroft Mediation

2nd November 2015

How long have you been practising mediation?

I trained as a mediator in 1993.

What experience do you have in mediation?

For the first 10 years of my mediation career I worked in a National Family Mediation Service in West Yorkshire, as a community mediator (neighbour disputes) and in workplace mediation. As Training and Development Manager for Mediation Yorkshire I  trained and supervised a team of 35+ community mediators. I also helped set up and deliver Mediation Yorkshire’s Workplace Mediation Service working with clients from NHS, Wakefield and Kirklees Councils and other local businesses. I have worked in different law firms who provide a mediation service.

I am a Professional Practice Consultant supervising and guiding new and experienced mediators in their mediation practice.

For the past two years I have served as a Board Member of the Family Mediators Association, my professional body.

What is your current role as a mediator?

I now work full time as a family mediator with a portfolio of work in West and South Yorkshire. I currently spend one day a week in Bradford, having assisted in the creation of Williscroft Mediation. At Williscroft Mediation I am offering a full mediation service for both children’s matters and financial matters to both legally aided and privately paying clients.. The services offered at Williscroft Mediation will bridge the gap left by the removal of legal aid for legal advice in family matters.

I also continue to be involved in training and supporting new family mediators as their Professional Practice Consultant.

How has mediation changed since you qualified as a mediator?

When I qualified as a mediator, mediation was offered as a service to couples separating and divorcing who needed to make arrangements for their children.  This service was extended to include arrangements for a financial settlement.  However, in the last 10 years or so mediation has become enshrined in the family justice system via legislation. It is regarded as a cheaper option than court, as well as a better options to keep families out of the court process.   Legal aid remains available for mediation but no longer for family law.

Legislation dictates that attending mediation is now a prerequisite before applying to court. If a client is eligible for legal aid for mediation, this also confers an entitlement to legal advice from a solicitor to run alongside mediation. Without mediation, legal aid would not be available to that client.

Have you held any other relevant roles in your career?

Before moving to Yorkshire I worked with children and families as a Reporter to the Children’s Panel.  In this role, where children are in need of care or protection I would receive referrals, investigate them and refer to a children’s hearing where necessary.

A children’s hearing is similar to the role of the Magistrates in the family court, although is interactive between them, the child and the parents.  Solicitors do not attend children’s hearings.  This is a quasi-social work / legal role as I had to investigate the facts and circumstances,  attend court to prove a case if the facts were in dispute, and assess the needs of a child regarding care.

In the same year I trained as a mediator I also became a magistrate in West Yorkshire.   I have been a chairperson in the adult courts for around 16 years; family panel member for around 10 years and chair for 6 years. I resigned as a family panel member due to the conflict of interest with my day job as a mediator.

What did you learn from being a Magistrate that assists you in your job as a mediator?

Despite seeming very different, both roles require many of the same skills:  listening, remaining impartial, treating people with respect regardless of who they are, using appropriate language, understanding situations and the role played by the individual to name but a few.

What do you enjoy about your job as a mediator?

Meeting a variety of people; distilling what they require; assisting them to take control of their lives; helping them to move on, improving the situation for them and their family.

What type of mediation do you offer?

I am experienced in both children and financial matters. I also have the additional /skill and experience of ‘child inclusive mediation’. This enables me to involve children of an appropriate age and understanding in the mediation process.  It provides them with a voice so they can be heard and their views taken into account by the parents.

Williscroft Mediation can also offer local businesses workplace mediation.  Conflict in the workplace can have long lasting effect on the efficiency and productivity of a business.  Colleagues can fall out with one another destroying their working relationship; staff go off sick due to difficulties with a colleague which remain unresolved and affect how quickly they can return to work; grievance procedures can be improved by including access to a workplace mediator before starting the official process.

How can mediation help families who are separating?

Relationships and marriages can be ended with dignity; focus and energy is placed on the real issues rather than on one another; children‘s needs remain at the centre of discussions; the parental relationship is mutualised, with an emphasis on co-operation whilst respecting that parents now have their own lives, realistic financial decisions can be agreed.

 

Contracted with the Legal Aid Agency. Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Reg.No. 67202.

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