Tom's life of reaching out to troubled youth recognised

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Tom Watson, an Edinburgh charity director, has earned a lifetime achievement award for more than 30 years of work engaging with the most excluded and deprived of Scotland's youths.

Mr Watson, 48, is director of Fairbridge in Scotland, a charity that reaches out to young people on the very margins of society. Mr Watson, originally from Ayr, has worked for Fairbridge since 1986.

He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual YouthLink Scotland Awards Dinner in recognition of his "long-term commitment and outstanding achievement within the field of youth work".

He is the youngest individual to ever receive this award.

Mr Watson said: "I feel extremely privileged to lead an organisation like Fairbridge in Scotland and am honoured to receive this award from the youth work sector."

Mr Watson started his career as a civil servant in 1979, before joining the Drake Fellowship as an instructor.

In 1989 he became a training and development manager and in 1990 regional director, moving to Scotland in 1993 as the director of Fairbridge in Scotland.

Fairbridge is a national charity that supports young people aged 13-25 to develop the confidence, motivation and skills they need to turn their lives around.

These young people often face a range of issues such as school exclusion and homelessness, antisocial behaviour, crime and substance misuse.

He has responsibility for up to 90 staff and has set up and managed many projects and initiatives, such as the Venture Trust and he founded the new Fairbridge Team in Dundee.

He said: "I have been involved in youth work for many years, in a range of settings from Scouting in Ayrshire through to leading an organisation such as Fairbridge in Scotland, working in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Scotland with some of the most excluded young people.

"Over the years I have come across many truly inspirational young people and have worked with some incredibly talented and committed staff. I am constantly amazed, humbled and motivated by their achievements.

"Many of the over-16s with whom Fairbridge tries to engage are already a long way from the labour market and their chaotic lifestyles worsen that distance."

Mr Watson added that the coming years would be increasingly challenging, as young people were affected by the impact of the recession.

"We hope to come out of this difficult period as strong as we entered it," he said. "But there are more people than ever who need our help at the moment as the recession has hit young people more than any other group."

He has also been a member of a number of Scottish government advisory groups such as the Beattie National Action Group and the NEET Employability Framework.