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The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria : delving into client satisfaction and durability of agreements
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posted on 13.02.2017by Fox, Glenice Margaret
The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria CDSCV') which originated in 1987 was principally developed to serve the needs of disputants in the community. The DSCV has developed and expanded over time and has gradually made the transition to institutionalisation as a key plank ofthe Victorian government's civil justice program. As the DSCV was established primarily to serve the needs of disputants in the community assessing its effectiveness in fulfilling that purpose, particularly in light of its expansion and institutionalisation, is essential.
For many years the DSCV has reported high client satisfaction and agreement rates with its service. Using both longer-term data and more detailed data regarding client satisfaction and agreement rates than was being used by the DSCV when data was collected for this study, this thesis examines client satisfaction with the DSCV mediation service and whether satisfaction with the session and agreements reached 'hold' over the longer term. The thesis also examines whether clients experience some of the long-term benefits and broader outcomes in the form of attitudinal and behavioural shifts claimed to flow from participation in mediation and whether the DSCV provides clients with an alternative to taking legal action. The overarching question to which all the findings are directed is: What do client reports of outcomes tell us about the effectiveness of the DSCV? By addressing this question the aim of the research is to contribute a 'client' perspective about the outcomes achieved and effectiveness of mediation.
A mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods was selected to answer the research questions. Two questionnaires were developed to collect data from two survey groups, one for clients who had participated in mediation two months earlier which drew 138 usable responses and the other for clients who had participated in mediation twelve months earlier and drew 110 usable responses. Both questionnaires were mailed out between August 2007 and July 2008. The study did not track the same clients but involved a cross-sectional analysis of responses provided at two different time points.
This thesis shows that client reports of outcomes support the effectiveness of the DSCV in achieving high rates of agreement and high levels of client satisfaction with thc service. Significantly, the findings suggest that clients value procedural justice (ie fairness of the process) more highly than an agreement being reached. It also shows that client satisfaction with the mediation session is reasonably stable over time and where changes occur, nearly as many clients experience improved satisfaction as reduced satisfaction. The thesis findings are also reasonably supportive of the effectiveness of the DSCV in achieving agreements that are durable over the longer term and in providing clients with an alternative to taking legal action to deal with their dispute. However, client reports do not strongly support the effectiveness of the DSCV in achieving long-term benefits and broader outcomes for clients in the nature of attitudinal and behavioural shifts.