A generous Middlesbrough grandmother who set up a support group so grandparents bringing up young children can enjoy a valuable social outlet says she is flattered and honoured after winning a Teesside Hero award.

Jane Thistlethwaite gave up her caretaker job of 11 years to look after her two granddaughters Catie, 8, and Kizzie, 4, with her husband Manny as their parents are no longer able to raise them due to addiction problems.

Kizzie was born blind but has since regained three-quarters of her sight, although she has a lazy left eye and requires regular medical check-ups.

But that did not stop Jane from setting up Supporting Kinship Carers at Grove Hill Community Hub after previously being involved with several similar groups.

Jane established the group in 2016 to ensure that dozens of other grandparents and extended family carers in similar positions feel supported in their journeys.

Not only is she the group’s leader and fundraiser, ensuring that carers and their children enjoy regular activities, but she is also a mentor to members ensuring she is only a phone call away whenever needed.

Now Jane has now been recognised for all of her outstanding community work after receiving a Teesside Hero award from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.

Along with her award and a restaurant voucher donated by Al Forno, Jane was presented with a cheque for £1,000 which will be put, along with a £2,000 donation from Unite, towards the group’s August trip to Blackpool.

“It was a lovely surprise to win the award,” she said. “I certainly don’t do this for recognition, but it’s really nice to be appreciated.

“I set up the group so that people in the same situation can come together and have a laugh, a chat and a cuppa, and put the world to rights, and also to let them know they are not alone like I thought I was.

“Kinship care can be lonely, but our group gives people a chance to break up their daily and weekly routines, get out of the house and have some fun with others going through the same experiences.”

Supporting Kinship Carers meets weekly and caters for more than 90 adults and children from areas such as Easterside, Saltersgill, Thornaby and Stockton.

Jane says group numbers have grown since she first started, due to the havoc that addiction continues to wreak on family life.

“If I could have one wish, instead of winning the lottery it would be for drugs to disappear,” said the mother-of-one.

After receiving her award from Phil Lyons of Stockton firm Inbond, Jane thanked Paula Marshall and her staff at Grove Hill Community Hub for “being brilliant with us” and the group’s project worker Darren McGlen from Grandparents Plus, who provides them with legal and financial advice.

Darren, who nominated Jane for her Teesside Hero award, said: “Jane always puts her own situation to the back of her mind and thrives on helping others.

“Not only has Jane totally transformed her local community, she does it all with a massive smile on her face and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of such an award.”