CARER and foster mum Gillian Powney has been named Carer of the Year, for her work supporting a young man as part of a scheme that helps people to live more independently.

Gillian Powney, of Southwick near Trowbridge was given the award at the BaNES Community Awards, having been a foster mum and then member of Shared Lives scheme for several years.

She lives with Ashley, now 20, who has severe complex learning difficulties and has been living with Ms Powney since he was aged five.

Ashley is not the only person to have received her help and she was celebrated during a ceremony last month.

The Shared Lives scheme operates in Wiltshire as well as in Bath and matches people to others who can benefit from their support, whether living with them or offering a form of respite.

The scheme supports older people, people with mental health issues, care leavers and disabled adults among others.

Ms Powney, 57, says she always knew she would like to foster children and after spending 20 years as a child minder, became a foster parent.

She said: “When Ashley turned 18, and stopped being eligible for children’s services and fostering, I took up the Shared Lives programme. He has become part of our family and we consider him in that way. Some clients just need a bit of extra support. It can be a full time role or you can offer respite for people.”

Ashley cannot read or write, he will never be able to live on his own but clients have different levels of care needs varying from little through to full care.

She continued: “Having Ashley stay with us has very much provided stability for him. We are one family now and he doesn’t have any concept of not living with us.

“I would say to anyone thinking about shared lives or fostering to take that chance. You learn as much about yourself as you help the clients and although it can be really hard work it can be very rewarding.

“During the awards it was fantastic to see people from all walks of life doing work for their community.”

Gill’s nominator Susannah Cook manager shared lives scheme Bath said: “Gill and her family have loved and cared for many people giving them the opportunities in life that would not have been available to them otherwise. They embody the values of inclusion, non-judgement and the belief that everyone has the right to have an inclusive family life - something that many of us take for granted”.