Ewan Aitken: Amber’s tenth anniversary a cause for celebration

Ewan Aitken, CEO of Cyrenians. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ewan Aitken, CEO of Cyrenians. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Statistics are dangerous things. Simple to throw around, much more difficult to pin down what they mean.

Yet sometimes they are just the message we need to hear. Like the fact that last year 4500 young people presented as homeless in Scotland. That’s around four high schools. All the evidence shows the downward spiral for those who become homeless as teenagers is fast and very difficult to reverse. Ten years ago, when the numbers where much higher, Cyrenians launched a service called Amber to help families where communication had broken down and a teenage member was on the verge of or had walked out. It was a unique service using a new model, which offered support for everyone involved, parents and young people, as well as mediation. I was the guest speaker at the launch in my then role as city council leader; long before I ever imagined I would be doing what I now do with Cyrenians.

Tonight I will be speaking again about Amber – at their tenth birthday bash in Summerhall, saying how ten years ago I knew there was something special about this service. Those involved were concerned with the most fundamental of relationships – family relationships – and how they described their way of working was not like anything I had heard before. Their focus was not about fixing things for others but people transforming themselves. Their perspective was about the whole family not simply the person presenting the issue and their priority was on healing relationships not who was right or wrong. None of this was unique but the attitudes and principles upon which it was built spoke to me in a very good way.

A decade later Cyrenians, through its Amber service, have journeyed with hundreds of families, transforming lives, people discovering again how to flourish and be themselves, to be a family. A quote from one father sticks in my mind “Amber has helped me remember why I love my daughter” A great thing to celebrate.

In 2014, borne out of Amber’s work, Cyrenians launched the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution to provide support, information and encourage best practice in mediation, conflict resolution and early intervention because both young people and their parents told us they didn’t know where to turn for help when conflict happened.

We want to know if that’s still the case and how we can improve what we offer and support more young people and parents struggling with their relationships. We have launched our #Haveyoursay survey; http://bit.ly/sccrsurvey. The survey will take about ten minutes to complete. Responses are anonymous. Please take ten minutes to help thousands of young people.

Ewan Aitkenis CEO of Cyrenians