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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Let’s solve the problems that cause the crisis

This opinion piece is about 1 year old

Colin Waters on how conflict at home drives youth homelessness - and what can be done to resolve this

Recently, Cyrenians Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) released a new report, Transforming Conflict, Improving Lives: 7 Year Impact Report and 2022 National Survey.

The subtitle summarises the report’s contents, although there is more than just that, not least the direction of travel the report sets for future work. The ‘7 Year Impact Report’ was originally to cover four years when published in 2020 – but then Covid intervened.

Our recent national survey contains a section on Covid’s effects, and while we have heard stories from some that the lockdown brought their family together, for many it strained relationships – and is still having an effect. Of the people who responded to the poll, 54% of young people and 70% of parents / carers felt their mental health had been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One young person told us, "my mental health got much worse over the lockdown so that I now have really bad anxiety and depression". A parent shared with us, "heightened stress and isolation impacted on us. The more stressed I am, the less well I deal with any conflict with my daughter."

We also learned from our national survey that some 19% – one in five – of the young people who took part think about leaving home due to arguments at least once a month. Little wonder then that in Scotland currently some 5,000 young people present as homeless every year, with the leading cause of youth homelessness relationship breakdown.

If 5,000 young people per year present as homeless, then over the seven years that the report covers, that figure rises to one comparable to the population of Falkirk.

With that in mind, SCCR remains committed to tackling the issue through our digital developments and online and in-person workshops that provide young people, parents, carers and professionals with advice drawn from the science of conflict on how to strengthen relationships so that families never get to the stage where a young person feels they have to leave home without somewhere to go on to.

Future plans to tackle youth homelessness include: working with local authorities to deliver workshops and resources for young people as part of the Curriculum for Excellence (Health and Wellbeing) ensuring that whatever a young person has experienced, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma are understood; continuing our approach to improving mental health, in line with the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027; and working with partners on digital platforms with multimedia content and psychoeducational resources that share SCCR’s experience of developing innovative digital delivery.

"If we have a choice in this country," Cyrenians CEO Ewan Aitken told the invited audience during the report's launch, "it’s that we can get really good at managing crises or we can try to solve the problems underlying them."

While relationship breakdown remains a driver for youth homelessness in Scotland, our recent survey demonstrates a majority of the young people and their parents / carers who responded want to better manage family relationships, which is why the work of SCCR remains necessary now and into the future.

Click here to read Transforming Conflict, Improving Lives: 7 Year Impact Report and 2022 National Survey.

Colin Waters is digital media and content manager at Cyrenians.