New Year honour for Blackpool couple who have transformed children's lives

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A couple who have devoted 20 years to improving the lives of vulnerable children in Blackpool are among people recognised in the New Year's Honours List.

Carl and Diane Mitchell are to receive MBEs after fostering more than 90 children at their home in South Shore, and were nominated by three of the young people they support.

Carl and Diane Mitchell

Carl and Diane Mitchell

They aim to use the honour to promote the benefits of fostering which is desperately needed to help more young people in the resort.

Carl, 54, said: "We're absolutely thrilled and believe we were nominated by three of our foster children, which is magical.

"We want to use this honour to promote fostering in Blackpool because it is such a much needed resource here."

Carl, a former ice skater, and Diane, a former dancer, began fostering when their previous careers ended and their own sons, now aged 24 and 25, were little.

At first they looked after young children, but more recently have cared for teenagers and currently act as emergency fosterers for familes in crisis.

Carl said: "We feel both of our sons have greatly benefited from our fostering - our youngest won a scholarship to Eton and the other now works for Sky in London.

"So to people who are nervous about it, or worry about the effect on their own children, I would say it has only been positive.

"Blackpool has more than its fair share of issues, but it handles it well and we are very well supported.

"Children are challenging, but they do keep you up-to-date and they all tend to stay in touch."

Successes have included one teenager who passed 10 GCSEs shortly after going to live with the couple after previously failing in many subjects, while they also helped someone else to buy their own home.

But exam success is not the main focus, with each child encouraged "to find something they are good at and then suddenly it all falls into place".

Diane, 53, says they "have treated every child as their own" and she now delivers training to social workers, offering an insight into the daily lives of foster parents.

Also in line for an award is Blackpool Council's head of libraries Mark McCree who has been given a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to public libraries.

He said: "I am overjoyed to receive such an honour. I am passionate about the positive impact libraries and library services have on our communities.

"Libraries are all about free access to books, reading, information, digital resources and getting online; all of which are fundamental.

"They are also a place where you can connect with others - young and old, and engage in a range of activities; a place to learn, to feel welcome; an inclusive environment that supports and signposts everyone regardless of their background."