Small claims mediation

Mediation will be made compulsory in many small claims cases worth less than £10,000. Find out what you need to know.


As of 22 May 2024, parties to many small claims disputes, worth less than £10,000 are required to attend mediation through the HMCTS Small Claims Mediation Service (SCMS).

Parties will automatically be referred to a free, one-hour, integrated mediation session designed to resolve cases.

Parties will not be required to reach a settlement at mediation, but it should provide an opportunity for a faster and more consensual resolution.

The Small Claims Mediation Service currently helps parties achieve a resolution of their dispute in around half of all cases.

Our view

In October 2022, we responded to a government consultation on making mediation compulsory.

We raised concerns that the changes would prevent some parties from accessing justice.

While mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) should be used wherever appropriate, we do not support the compulsory use of mediation where it may be:

  • detrimental to either party, or
  • prevent access to justice

We advocated for adequate signposting and education to increase the uptake of mediation in appropriate cases and at an appropriate time.

We're concerned the changes may create a two-tier system: where some parties can access justice and others can only access the means to end a dispute – but potentially not in a just way.

We asked the government to:

  • run a pilot with clearly defined parameters, including timeframes and measures of success
  • evaluate data from the pilot thoroughly to guide any further steps
  • consider how the Small Claims Mediation Service will handle such a large volume of disputes effectively
  • provide litigants with clear guidance on what it means to undertake mediation and the legal consequences for those involved
  • consider whether one or both parties would be legally represented (we're concerned about the potential power imbalances)

Next steps

The change will come into force in two stages.

From 22 May 2024, mediation became a requirement for new claims made on paper through HMCTS legacy systems, including:

  • Money Claims Online (MCOL); and
  • for bulk customers who issue through Secure Data Transfer (SDT)

Read the Practice Direction which gave effect to this change as of 22 May 2024. 

The requirement to mediate for cases submitted through Online Civil Money Claims (OCMC) will be introduced later.

Until then, cases issued in OCMC will continue to be opted-in to mediation, with the ability for parties to opt out.

HMCTS have expanded the SCMS with additional mediators and administration staff and improved internal appointment booking systems. They are working to increase the flow of referrals to mediation under the current voluntary arrangements.

The government consultation closed on 4 October 2022. Download our full response (256 KB).

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