Surge in use of support service

THERE has been a six-fold increase in the number of couples availing of family mediation since divorce was legalised in Ireland.

The Family Mediation Service marked its 21st year in operation yesterday and revealed 14,406 couples had used its services during that time.

This increased each year from 1997. In 2006, 1,500 couples sought mediators for separation agreements. In 1996, there were 250.

The service’s chief executive Pat Bennett said the same core issues of custody, assets and maintenance were at the heart of agreements down through the years.

He said the increasing figures reflected improved access to its service and greater awareness of mediation.

“We have more than doubled the number of centres we have around the country since the millennium [to 16]. The numbers are on the increase as more people hear about it or are referred by relations or friends.

“We are not going to grow the number of centres from now on, but instead provide an outreach service to get to people who are not able to get to our centres,” he said.

He said there is still confusion among people who see mediation as counselling rather than a free service for separating couples.

* For more information on the Family Support Agency’s Family Mediation Service visit www.fsa.ie.

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