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Georgina's Blog



May 2020

Government website and all-together families

This may sound like a weird one but I want to talk about two things that our current predicament has made me ponder. The first is the gov.uk website and the second is about how many families are all together at the moment.

The gov.uk website. A-ha! You might well ask why I would single it out but at the moment there such a plethora of scams and surmise, it is a welcome buoy in a swirling sea of information. I work for Citizens Advice as well, and so I have to use it often. I remember the bad old days when the bureaucracy of government was obfuscated with jargon and hard to contact offices all in different places with different numbers and addresses. Now we have one website which merges all the information for twenty four different departments. The whole world can see this - what transparency! It is admirably clear. It is kept up to date. (Given a printer and access to the internet - which, I grant, is not everybody's lot) you can download and print off almost any form or apply for visas, driving or fishing rod licences, appeal a hedgerow decision, find out about environmental stewardship schemes, look up consultation papers and check statistics. Most relevantly at the moment it gives succinct, comprehensible explanations about the current schemes that Rishi Sunak has put in place for those who are self-employed, employed and furloughed, are keyworkers with children and so on. It is a free and commendably easy to navigate site. From a mediation perspective some of the most relevant parts of the site are to do with finding out about your state pension, the child maintenance calculator and online divorce application. This latter is relatively new - about two years old - and has meant that whereas before 40% of paper applications were rejected because they were incomplete, now fewer than 1% of online applications are rejected saving much heartache and scratching of heads. The relative ease of using this method of applying for a divorce can be hard for a spouse who has not quite 'caught up' with the whole process and may still be grieving the breakdown of the relationship. I would always encourage anyone using an online system to have the courtesy to email their spouse about what they are doing. It is quite a shocking email to receive in your inbox of a Monday morning if you were not forewarned. And I have seen the aftereffects of this on many clients.

As the Duchess of Cornwall pointed out, for many people having to stay at home in an environment where you do not feel safe because of domestic abuse, whether it is financial, emotional or physical is many people's nightmare and experience. For many however, this lockdown has been an opportunity for families to all come together and engage on projects together - not just the endless baking and Netflix series, but writing songs, recreating old master paintings, playing card games and running together. Many university age children are back home for months when you would never normally have seen them for dust. Treasure this time - however expensive and testing it can be! Parents who commute or travel for work a great deal are now confined to barracks and can see the reality of domestic life up close and personal. See this as an opportunity to iron out wrinkles in perception - yes, it really does take that long to hoover the bedrooms and to do a nit check! Rather than seeing is believing, perhaps we should start with doing is believing and different people in the family can take turns at assuming the roles normally played by other members. I have discovered that I hate mowing the lawn......

Just like you, I have no idea how long we are all going to be in this predicament and what the necessary or chosen changes will be afterwards, but we are offering online MIAMs and mediations. Online has its advantages and disadvantages but overall is a really effective way of keeping the channels of communication open right now, and, I suspect, moving forward into the new 'normal'. In the meantime, keep healthy and happy.