Northampton grandmother awarded MBE for work to bring hundreds of carers like her together
A Northampton grandmother who has helped hundreds of carers like her see they aren't alone in what they do has been awarded a MBE.
There are thousands of extended family members across the UK who become the main guardians of a relative's children. It's not unusual - but for both the carers and the children, it can feel like no one understands their situation.
But when Shelly James became the carer herself for her grandchildren in 2007, she found the best way to deal with these feelings was to connect with others like - and ended up founding a community.
Shelly, 57, from Little Billing, has been recognised in the 2020 New Years Honours for her work to grow the Kinship Friendship Carers Group - a community of over 850 carers who can share the experience of raising their own extended family's children when no one else understands what it can be like.
For over 10 years, Shelly has grown the group and even set created Kinfest - a holiday event for carer-grandparents and their grandchildren to make friends and share experiences.
Now, the 57-year-old has been awarded an MBE for her work.
She told the Chronicle and Echo: "When the letter first came through I thought it was a bill. I had to read it a few times to realise what it meant.
"I don't think I did anything special. I didn't plan it. Everything just sort of happened the way it did.
"We were just a group of friends supporting each other that just grew and grew and grew."
Her work also saw her raise awareness of the rights of carer-families and grandparents, who can be paid a weekly allowance by their local authority to supplement their income as many of them are retired.
The vast majority of locally run care peer-to-peer support groups across the country are spin-offs of the original group she took over management of in 2009.