A single mother who nursed her toddler through lifethreatening meningitis was honoured yesterday for her outstanding parenting skills.

Georgette Mullen was just two years-old when she lost her right hand and toes, suffered damaged fingers and was left with a bone-wasting disease.

Her mother Vickie, of Redditch, nursed her daughter through those traumas and again last year when Georgette, now 13, had 32 pins put in her legs to straighten her bones.

Her 45 year-old mother had to turn the pins as her daughter screamed out in pain. "I'd cry in the loo, then go back and force a smile," said Vickie.

Georgette, who now plays football and basketball at county level, nominated her mother for the That's Life magazine Single Mum/Dad of the Year Awards.

"Mum's my hero," she said, as Vickie won the Midlands category of the awards and a £300 prize.

Magazine editor Jo Checkley said: "It must have been so hard to stay strong seeing her little girl in so much pain. Vickie's now called a hero by her daughter - a title she certainly deserves."

The winners were honoured yesterday in a ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Shaun Lee, from London, who was left to bring up three young boys on his own after his wife died just two days after giving birth, was named dad of the year.

And Nina Wallace, who overcame a difficult childhood to raise her daughter, go to college and become deputy head teacher of a London school, was named single mum of the year.

Both winners picked up £3,000 in the awards designed to celebrate the crucial role single parents have to carry out.

Ms Checkley said: "Single parents are all too often criticised for draining our welfare system and somehow weakening the value of family.

"But most don't set out to be a single mum or dad. It's the role life thrusts upon them.

"Our winners reveal stories of amazing courage, determination and love that will leave even the hard-hearted humbled. We salute them all." n Single people of working age are among the UK's poorest groups, research claimed.

An estimated 3.9 million single people of working age are living in poverty, according to charity Elizabeth Finn Care. More than 300,000 such people, without dependant children, have fallen below the poverty line since 1996/97.

The charity, which helps people get out of poverty, warned these people were least likely to have family to turn to, and tended to remain invisible, slipping further into the poverty trap.

Jonathan Welfare, chief executive of Elizabeth Finn Care, said: "A staggering 20 per cent, or 12.5 million people, in the UK, including 8.8 million adults, live below the poverty line amidst the prosperity of the world's fourth largest economy."