Since 2010, Curo has offered a mediation service, free of charge, to young people aged 16-25 who are at risk of homelessness. Since April this year our mediation service has already prevented 31 young people from becoming homeless.
My role is to work with the young person and their parents or carers to help them either stay in the family home or move successfully to one of our supported housing projects. At the same time, we work together at rebuilding their relationships with the family and, sometimes, return to the family home.
Mediation is not therapy or counselling.
Put simply, mediation is a process where the disputing parties agree to try and work through disagreements or problems which are causing a breakdown of relationships. All parties come to the table to talk through their issues. The role of the mediator is to listen to all participants and guide the process so everyone feels heard and is given an equal chance to say what is going on for them. At the end of the process, which could be just one meeting or three – whatever is needed – an agreement is drawn up. This sets out acceptable behaviour, the issues to be dealt with and goals going forward. This agreement is signed by everyone and, hopefully, everyone keeps their promises.
Simple right? Not always.
Mediation is a really hard process for some people to go through. We all find it hard to admit to our negative behaviours and to accept that there might need to be changes. It’s hard to accept that the way we behave might impact negatively on somebody else – made even more difficult when that somebody else is a family member.
It’s challenging for everybody and since starting in my role I have had tears and tantrums, melt-downs, screaming matches and total non-participation. On the other hand I have also had tears of joy, laughter and hugs of reconciliation… you can’t beat that in your day job.
One of the best days I’ve had recently started when I took a phone call from the mum of a teenage girl I’d been working with. It had been a really hard case as the daughter had got into trouble with the police and local drug gangs. Mum was at the end of her tether and the whole family was imploding.
On the phone, Mum told me that her daughter, who had been staying with various people, had just returned home, re-enrolled herself into a sixth-form college and had sat down and talked, without shouting, to both her mum and sister for over two hours. In those two hours she’d described what had been going on for her and why she had left home. She then explained that she wanted to be back at home with her family and to continue working everything out. Mum was crying as she told me this and ended the call by telling me that without the mediation intervention things would not have turned around for the family.
I love working directly with young people and I love when things work out. Sadly, not all mediation interventions work this way and sometimes the best way to help is to facilitate the young person moving out of the family home and into one of Curo’s supported schemes at either Pathways or The Foyer. Once there the support for the young person is brilliant, giving them the chance to re-build their lives, gain greater independence and access a wide range of support services designed to help them gain employment, move forward and hopefully re-build relationships.
I think the bottom line with mediation is that it gives everybody a voice – an equal chance to hear and be heard – and the opportunity to re-build. What a truly amazing service to offer.
Stock photo posted by model.