SPECIALIST antisocial behaviour mediators have been appointed to help defuse disputes on Wearside estates.
Social property landlord Three Rivers Housing has provided funding for a six-strong team of residents to undergo training as part of a pioneering project.
Research undertaken by the organisation shows 65 per cent of all incidents can be resolved by early intervention.
It is hoped the mediation service in Sunderland, one of the first programmes of its type in the country, will help to prevent disputes from escalating.
Domestic carer Patricia McNay, who lives in St Aidan’s, Grangetown, is one of six volunteers from across the North East who have so far graduated from an NVQ Level 3 course, which will help them deal with low-risk and minor neighbour disputes.
Mum-of-one Patricia, who decided to take up the challenge after being involved in the local “One Voice” community group, said: “I have been a Three Rivers resident for over 12 years and more recently, have been involved with the antisocial behaviour service improvement group meetings and was appointed as a community representative for my estate.
“In the antisocial behaviour group we knew that mediation services were vital and that changes were coming in terms of funding, so we discussed recruiting local representatives with Three Rivers.”
The residents will receive intensive support during their first year of activity, when they will work in pairs to help householders resolve disputes.
Each has agreed to give up 25 voluntary hours of their time per year.
They will work across the group’s housing stock, which covers Sunderland, Gateshead and the Wear Valley, but will not work in their own area.
“I’m really pleased to be part of the team,” said the 52-year-old. “I’ve seen what a difference early intervention can make on estates like mine and hope I can help in other regions where Three Rivers have housing.
“The Unite course we took was really eye-opening in terms of how to be a good mediator, and how to help people come to their own resolution.
“I work as a domestic carer at the moment, so am well-used to seeing all different walks of life and am looking forward to the new skills I think I’ll gain.”
Three Rivers expects the mediators will help reduce the number of disputes that need to be escalated to injunction or court proceedings.
Dawn Keightley, group director of operations at Four Housing Group, Three Rivers’ parent company, said: “We know, through research and our extensive experience of managing housing stock, that mediation is the most effective way of handling and limiting antisocial behaviour.
“Appointing mediators who are based in the community will mean we can act quickly to resolve issues.
“The mediators are extremely positive and enthusiastic about the challenges that may lie ahead.
“We will be supporting them throughout the process and helping them host monthly meetings to continue honing their skills”