With Young Carer Awareness Day upon us, Michael Alexander speaks to Fife teenager Dean Watson who has been a young carer since the age of eight.

There are now an estimated 6.5 million people acting as carers for family and friends in the UK – but it is not only adults carrying the burden of care.

The most recent UK census recorded 178,000 young carers (aged under 18) in England and Wales and an additional 17,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

According to children’s charity Barnardo’s, the average age of a young carer in Scotland is 12-years-old, with these children more likely to suffer from mental health problems, stress and sleep disorders than their peers.

Recent figures also suggest that their duties and responsibilities are preventing around half of them from going on to university or college after school.

But Fife teenager Dean Watson is bucking that trend thanks to local support that has allowed him to go to college and pursue his dream of becoming a petroleum engineer.

The 19-year-old from Leuchars, who has been a carer for his disabled mum since the age of eight, is the inaugural recipient of the Fiona De Angelis Academic Scholarship, which was set up by St Andrews ice cream shop Jannettas Gelateria in conjunction with Madras College.

With support from the scholarship, which lasts up to three years, Dean is currently studying towards an HND in Petroleum Engineering at Fife College, with a view to pursuing a career in the oil industry.

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