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Happy 9th Birthday Amber!

By Viki Phillipps, Conflict Resolution Services Manager

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As the ninth anniversary of the Cyrenians’ Amber service approaches, it seems a timely moment to reflect back to September 2006 when we were officially launched by our now CEO, Ewan Aitken who was then in the position of Leader of the Council for the City of Edinburgh. The event itself, a rather swish affair at City Chambers with wine and cheese laid on, now feels redolent of a bygone era when we lived, if not quite in times in feast (they really were quite teeny bits of cheese and very titchy glasses of wine), then at least with no particular sense of tightened belts or needing to take a lean and mean approach to service delivery.

So now, although we live in a very different world, curiously, whilst the pressure to meet targets and evidence outcomes increases relentlessly, the issues that the families and young people we work with don’t seem to have changed in any substantial way at all. Our first case, for example, was with a family at their wits end, because as far as the parents were concerned, their son was on a downward trajectory to hell, whilst his opinion was that he was simply enjoying a bit of freedom between school and university. And whilst this may appear to be a simple case of misunderstanding easily sorted by a straight discussion things were, inevitably, a little more complex and a lot more complicated… but hey, that’s families for you… Though, in fact, two or three “wee chats” were conducted under the formal construct of a Mediation – where honesty, respect and confidentiality work their magic. Things that needed to be said were said, past hurts were healed and the family found solutions that worked for all of them.

And this is the point I think in terms of what’s stayed much the same – whilst reasons for referral may have increased to include benefit changes; legal highs or the challenges around lifestyle choices between, for example, parents and teenagers from the Polish community; the fundamentals of how parents and teenagers communicate during the transition years from child to adult remains problematic for all sorts of reasons. Mostly it seems to be down to the basic fact that in the midst of daily life and all the stresses that brings, families too easily forget how to tell each other that they love each other and that what really matters is that they care about what happens however much it might seem that they don’t… In fact, I reckon that “I don’t care what you do” is probably one of the biggest lies that families tell!

Nor indeed, does there appear to be any significant shift in the responses we hear to the idea of mediation as a way of sorting things out that seem un-sortable…. From potential clients calling us in desperation or new referrers who’ve just heard about us, there’s a quiet moment on the phone as they take in the fact that yes, really, here is someone at the end of the line who’s saying that they can help, and that what’s being offered really can and does make a difference.

So anyway, on the eve of Amber’s 9th Birthday, all I really want to say is that back when I was looking forward to my own ninth birthday all I really cared about was getting a bike, and so perhaps as Amber enters its ninth year we should be looking for further ways of helping families stay in the saddle as they travel the bumpy roads of adolescence and the challenges of growing up…

Viki Phillipps, Conflict Resolution Services Manager

Viki Phillipps joined Cyrenians in 2006 with a remit to develop a mediation and support pilot for young people at risk of homelessness, since then, she has been instrumental in the development, growth and successes of Amber and the Conflict Resolution Services.

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