Cyrenians ‘Keeping Families Together’ to tackle homelessness

22 January 2020
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Thanks to the latest round of Cashback for Communities funding, over the next three years homelessness charity Cyrenians will work alongside Scotland’s five secure units to support young people and their families.

Family breakdown is by far the most immediate trigger for youth homelessness in Scotland [1], with poverty playing a key underlying role [2]. Disproportionately, those with experience of homelessness, including a high percentage of Scotland’s prison population, will have had prior experience of the care system [3].

At any one time in Scotland, up to 84 young people can be in secure accommodation. The aim of such secure care units is ‘to provide intensive support and safe boundaries to help these highly vulnerable children re-engage and move forward positively in their communities’ [4]. Until now, there has been no national approach to offering the same level of support to young people and their families upon entering and leaving care across all five units in Scotland. Without support, the issues affecting families and young people – whether the impact of earlier ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), low income and related stresses – can be left unchecked. Communication can break down, and relationships can fracture, with devastating consequences for the young person, their families and the wider community.

Since 1968, Cyrenians has been tackling the causes and consequences of homelessness. Cyrenians new ‘Keeping Families Together’ project will support young people (12+) in secure accommodation and their families at the point of admission and those who are in the process of returning home. Building on their award-winning ‘Amber’ model of mediation and support, offering 1-to-1 support from skilled mediators, practical support for each family member, and conflict resolution workshops, the project will help build positive relationships, promote better communication, and reduce the potential for future conflict and its further consequences.

Kerry Watson, Service Manager at Cyrenians, said “Strong, positive relationships are essential to a person’s health and wellbeing, and that could not be truer for young people. At what can only be an enormously stressful and difficult period in a young person’s life, it is only right that both the young person and the rest of the family receive the support they need to maintain and rebuild those relationships, and for the young person, where possible, to return home to a positive environment.”

Across society, there is widespread support and recognition for greater wrap-around services for those entering and leaving the care system – it is often those points, at the ‘edges’ of the care system, when young people are most at risk.

Ewan Aitken, CEO of Cyrenians, said: “A compassionate society ensures that everyone, no matter their background, has the opportunity to lead a valued and fulfilling life.

“It is a profound injustice that those who have had experience of institutional care are then more likely to have lower educational attainment, reduced employment prospects, and be more likely to find themselves without a home – whether that’s in the justice system, sofa-surfing, temporary accommodation, or sleeping rough.

“This is a shared responsibility for the whole of society. Our whole-systems approach promotes ways we can work with others to ensure we intervene early on, before costly, crisis-driven, remedial responses are needed down the line.”







Ewan Aitken, CEO, and Kerry Watson, Service Manager, available for interview upon request. To arrange, and for further information, contact:

Oliver Goulden

Marketing and Communications Officer