A charity which helps people build safe, healthy, happy relationships is expanding its services into Ellesmere Port.

Talk, Listen, Change, a relationships charity with more than 40 years experience, is expanding its family mediation services into the town.

Family mediation is a process to help separating couples make arrangements for children and/or shared finances, avoiding the risk of lengthy and expensive court proceedings and allowing them to discuss important matters in a secure environment and with an impartial professional.

Support is offered to discuss things like living arrangements, contact with a child/children, holidays and special occasions, financial disclosure, divorce proceedings, and the division of assets.

Child inclusive mediation is also on offer and is an opportunity for children to have a voice in the decisions being made where appropriate and following permission from both parents. In 2023, TLC: Talk, Listen Change saw 13 times as many children attend as did in 2019.

TLC; Talk, Listen, Change’s Family Mediation Service was established in Manchester in February 2015 before demand for the service saw it expand to Stockport and Bolton within 12 months. Outposts in Wigan and Chorley soon followed with the service moving online during the pandemic of 2020 allowing the charity to reach people all across the UK.

The expansion to Ellesmere Port in 2024 will allow the charity to reach more families than ever before.

Family mediation is available to everyone without financial barriers. The services are offered privately or funded through legal aid and the Government Voucher Scheme, with all clients receiving the exact same service ensuring that everyone can receive a high quality mediation experience regardless of their circumstances.

Nearly four in every five clients that availed of TLC: Talk, Listen, Change’s mediation services in the last year attended free of charge, through either legal aid or the Government Voucher Scheme.

The Government Voucher Scheme means that anyone, regardless of income, can receive £500 towards joint sessions of mediation, if they are discussing children.

The availability of the Government Voucher Scheme demonstrates a vote of confidence from the Ministry of Justice that disputes regarding children are always better resolved between separating partners outside of court.

The Government Voucher Scheme has been repeatedly extended and this is as a direct result of the scheme. An analysis of the first 7,200 users of this scheme shows that 69 per cent of participants have reached whole or partial agreements away from court.

Victoria Parkinson, head of family mediation at TLC: Talk, Listen, Change, said: “Our aim is to ensure that high quality mediation is available to all. In order to achieve this we have a fantastic and highly trained team, we remain committed to our legal aid contact and we are delighted to still offer the Government Voucher Scheme funding.

“Everyone here is very excited for the growth of the department and to support more families. We do what we do because we believe that it is not only a positive step forward during difficult times but also a healthy approach to creating a happier situation.

“This time of year is busy within family law, we saw a 203 per cent increase in January 2023 from December 2022.

"As people reflect on the time they spent with their children last year or consider their financial position they may wish to begin 2024 by exploring the option of mediation. It is important that people know we are here to resolve disputes in a way that reduces legal costs and is family focused.”