A SALISBURY couple who have fostered dozens of children, some with severe learning difficulties, for more than three decades have both been awarded with an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Rachel and Michael Squire have fostered around 40 children over the past 32 years, caring for youngsters on long-term placements and respite care.

The couple began fostering when Rachel, 64, worked at the John McNeill Opportunity Centre and realised a lot of families did not have support around them that was often much-needed.

Grandmother of two Rachel said: “We were fortunate as my parents and family were around us but for a lot of families it’s difficult for them to even have time to have a hair cut or go to the doctors so we wanted to help.

“We offer children a normal family life and treat them as part of our family giving them the love and support they need, and making a difference in their lives.

“For children with quite severe disabilities we give respite so the rest of the family can have some family time and for the children it is a chance to experience different things with ourselves.”

The pair say that the honour is not just for them but for other carers and their family, including daughters Emma and Laura.

“We are accepting it on behalf of our fostering colleagues,” Rachel added.

“It is exciting and we are very honoured to receive the award but there are a lot of people out there who have fostered far more children than us, so this is for them as well.”

Family has been a big part of their decision to continue fostering, with their children and now grandchildren looking forward to a new arrival.

“When one child would be adopted or reunited with their parents we would always say that we would have a break as I would want to be able to go out and hold both our daughters’ hands but the girls would always say ‘when is the next child coming’.”

The couple say they also remain in touch with many of the children they have fostered.

“Christmas is a special time for us, we get a lot of letters. This year we received one from a four-year-old we fostered who had written his name beautifully in the card,” Rachel said.

“We have also been to weddings and birthday parties over the years of some of our children.”

Despite being of retiring age, the couple, who mainly foster children aged under five, say they won’t give up just yet, with Michael, 71, still getting on his hands and knees to change nappies.

The couple have also been involved in their local Scouting group for 44 years, with Michael acting as treasurer for some of that time. They also run children and family groups at their church in the city, and offer training to new foster families.

Rachel and Michael Squire are not the only recipients on the New Year Honours list with others from around Salisbury honoured for their dedication.

Wiltshire Council is asking anyone is interested in following in Rachel and Michael's footsteps and are wanting to foster to call 01225 716510 or go to www.wiltshire.gov.uk/fostering.