January LOCKDOWN BLUES – Anne Braithwaite

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Is April the cruellest month? I always think January deserves that title. We manage through late autumn with planning for Christmas. Come late February those of us lucky enough to have gardens can see real early signs of spring with their promise of a whole new cycle of growth and life outdoors. January is the hangover month- grey, cold and unforgiving. Then this year we have our third lockdown.

I think most of us entered the first lockdown all those many months ago with trepidation but also with a sense of collective purpose, a feeling that, if we all pulled together, we could beat this thing. I may be alone in saying that, once the initial stark prospect of losing my mediation practice was overtaken by the challenges of starting up as an online mediator, there was excitement in doing something so new to me. Here I was suddenly learning a whole new set of tricks despite being a very elderly dog.

I sense that there is nothing but gloom around this return to lockdown. We humans need to be able to hope and plan for the future. Now we aren’t able reliably to do either. It can feel like groundhog day with our noses very much to the daily grindstone. It would be quite hard enough without January there in the mix.

For those of you longing to be back in the room with clients rather than managing gallery views onscreen, this must be a very hard time. For those working towards accreditation, the difficulty of finding observation and/or co-work opportunities given many mediators have, understandable, reservations about working with a newbie met only as an online presence, must seem insurmountable. If you make any other resolution this January, can I ask those of you able to offer opportunities but with doubts to re-consider and let FMA know you will offer chances to the newly trained. It’s possible to liaise with their PPC to check out a bit more about them. There are data protection issues. You can always have them sign an agreement to keep nothing but anonymised notes. Portfolio work is after all anonymised. The newly trained are the future of mediation. Their future must feel particularly bleak right now.

There is hope to be found. We mediators are a community. FMA is now I believe a stronger community than it has been for many years. The silver lining of the pandemic is that, through the measures we put in place last year, there is a real sense that we are all in this together and here to support each other whether professionally or personally. There are still the national chats which we will expand again if there is a demand. There will be more free workshops. If you have any ideas for new ones, do let us know. There is what I hope you think is a varied programme of online training.

Above all I think we mediators can be proud that we have risen to the immense challenge of losing our mediation rooms to ensure that mediation is very much alive and well as a service for couples and their children.

I appreciate that none of that helps with what feels like a continuous lockdown with no vision of an end in sight. It can all feel very blue but there will be an end some day. Until then I’m sure we will all pull together to ensure that mediation continues, indeed grows in strength. Many solicitors who fiercely resisted referrals except to get a court form are embracing the reality that, faced with huge delays at court, alternative dispute resolution is the only viable option for their clients. And we are there for those clients at a time when so much else isn’t available, assisting them online until the time when we can return to our mediation rooms.

© FMA 2021