FOUR out of 10 pupils in fourth year at Preston Lodge High School identified themselves as young carers in a recent survey.

The pupils were taking part in the annual Student Evaluation of Experience (SEE) Survey.

Young carers are defined by the Scottish Government as “those who provide help or support to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of either long term physical or mental ill health, disability or problems related to old age.”

However, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, cabinet spokeswoman for education and children’s services at East Lothian Council, said the Preston Lodge (PL) statistic was misleading and put the number down to how well the council recorded the amount of young carers.

Ms Akhtar told the Courier: “Every year we carry out the SEE Survey, which asks young people in Primary 6 and second and fourth years at secondary school about their lives inside and outside of school.

“As part of this, we ask young people if they are a young carer and every year around 30 per cent of children and young people across East Lothian say that they are.

“This is quite a lot over the national average which sits at around eight per cent.

“We don’t think this is because there is a huge difference in the numbers of young carers in East Lothian and elsewhere – but more because we record it better.

“There are fluctuations across the county and the percentage of young people in S4 at Preston Lodge reflects the particular pressures that people in the area experience.”

There are approximately 29,000 young carers in Scotland, according to figures from Carers Trust.

Ms Akhtar explained what the council was doing to help young carers in the county.

She said: “Education and Children’s Services staff have been working hard with local groups and East Lothian Young Carers and Bridges Project to try to get young carers the support that they need and, in particular, to ask for a Young Carer’s Statement, which will help them to do this.

“We have recently completed the consultation on our draft East Lothian Carers Strategy, which has been developed with carers, partners – for example, Carers of East Lothian, East Lothian Young Carers and Bridges Project – and communities.”

As part of that consultation, the local authority held a young carers’ event at Haddington Rugby Club in June where young people early in June this year, where young people were able to tell the council about their lives and what they thought would make things better for them.

“It was a great day and the young carers I spoke to were really impressive in the way that they coped with caring, but I could see that this was often at the expense of doing well at school, sustaining friendships and looking after their own health,” said Ms Akhtar.

The councillor said that the number of people identifying as young carers was not necessarily a problem – and can be viewed positively in terms of their contribution to the community and their families.

She added: “We are currently working on the final strategy and I already know that it will seek to encourage more people to identify as carers and the rest of us to recognise the huge contribution that carers make

“In turn, this will help young and adult carers to get the good quality information, advice and support across services, employment and communities that they are entitled to.”