SUSAN Shannon lost her confidence, her job and her social life while caring single-handedly for her two daughters - one who was born profoundly deaf and the other who has Asperger's syndrome.

But now Susan, 55, from Hindley, has used her 33 years of experience to start a weekly support group for carers and former carers.

Susan, who has previously worked in factories and in retail, was helped back on to her feet when she joined Ambition For Ageing's Working Potential scheme.

The project, which is being delivered in the borough by health and social care charity Making Space, aims to grow an understanding of former carers' barriers to getting back into work.

Susan was nominated for the "Integrity" award by Denise Bretherton from Making Space, one of just six national accolades handed out by the charity.

Denise said: "While Susan's skillset grew as a carer, her self-esteem lowered and she had to give up her job and much of her social life.

"Susan has been a participant with the Working Potential project since the end of March and in that short time, she has started volunteering at Chapter One Cafe at Hindley Library and Community Centre.

"With renewed confidence and drive, Susan uncovered a gap for a local support group for carers and former carers and has worked tirelessly to make it a reality.

"The first group took place on September 13, and though her hard work, it has grown each week since then.

"She is very well deserving of this recognition for both working on herself to improve her confidence and for what she is giving back to others."

Susan was presented with her award at a ceremony at Making Space’s Mind, Body, Soul event at Gorton Monastery in Manchester.

The ceremony marked the annual Making Space Awards to celebrate the achievements of the people they support as well as their volunteers.

Susan said: "My story has a happy ending.

"My oldest daughter is now in her 30s and living independently and my youngest is 16 and doing well at college.

"I had some very difficult years where there was no time to think about me and my needs but now I am coming out the other side with my head held high."

Susan believes peer support is vital for carers to continue in their role and that they must also take time to look after themselves.

"If you ever want a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, then come to the group," she said.

"There is support out there for you."

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Making Space supports more than 15,000 people nationally, including people with mental health conditions, dementia, or learning disabilities as well as providing support for carers and former carers.

The weekly support group Brew and Banter takes place every Friday 10am to noon at Hindley Library and Community Centre.

A voluntary donation of £1 is requested for each session. To find out more information about the group contact 07547 613516.