Let’s Face it Viki, “Scottish people don’t do talking”

By Viki Phillipps, Conflict Resolution Services Manager


Ryan1 is just one of the many, many young people about whom my team of mediators and conflict resolution workers regularly say: “God, s/he is just amazing!”

And watching Ryan talk so passionately about the difference working with us has made, prompted me to wish that I’d taken one of these ‘amazing’ young people to our quarterly review meetings with the Council’s commissioning team back in the early days of Amber…

…so that when one of their officers commenting on our (then) less than brilliant referral rates said:

“Let’s face it, Viki, Scottish people don’t do talking”.

I’d have politely invited Ryan (or whoever was with me) to respond…

…the fact that Ryan would have been around 11 or 12 at the time would not, I think, have diminished the power of his message and, I know, that many of the issues that he and his mum are now working through were certainly around for them both back then.

Early intervention. What does this actually mean for families, for young people and for those like ourselves who are working in the field?

Ultimately, I’d like us all to get to a place where mediation and support for teenagers in conflict at home isn’t viewed as an INTERVENTION for TROUBLED and COMPLEX families, but as a perfectly normal, healthy and natural way to address difficult issues quickly, without a fuss and certainly with no feelings of shame, stigma, failure or simply just coming to a place of last resort.

And though this aspiration might sound like a plea for more and better resourced services for families across the country, in fact the purpose of the SCCR is in essence the simple desire for us all

– to have more understanding
more empathy and
more time for each other

And to say to ourselves and each other that relationships aren’t always easy but the more we talk and remind each other of what really matters to us, the less we’ll find ourselves in crisis, feeling alone or without hope.

Ryan’s openness, insight and maturity gives us all, surely, hope and inspiration for the future of the ‘hoody’ generation.

When we watched his film at the first of the SCCR’s conference’s yesterday, some of the comments from the floor questioned whether Ryan, so confident, so articulate, so eloquent could really be said to represent most Scottish teenagers.

What about, people queried, all those who wouldn’t have the courage to go to their guidance teacher or those whose trust in the adult world had been so eroded (or never existed)? And of course, it’s true, there are young people who don’t have Ryan’s confidence and whose lives have been utterly decimated by their experiences, but the truly unreachable? I don’t believe there’s any more than a small handful of Scotland’s teenagers who would fit that category.

And, without in any way wishing to underestimate Ryan’s skills as a communicator, I have yet to meet a teenager who hasn’t left me awestruck with their honesty, creativity in problem solving and who isn’t genuinely open to the idea of doing things differently.

I’ll just finish by sharing with you that I am currently suffering from partial hearing loss which means that I’ve had to really work to listen this week. Hearing has become hard for me and that’s the other side of the story isn’t it? So as a country, as we learn more about how to ‘do talking’, we need to make sure we’re ‘doing listening’ too.

1star of a short film about mediation made for the first of the SCCR’s conferences and shown to delegates from across Scotland in April

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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