Sheffield cabinet for children and family: ‘Putting a hand out at the right time can change people’s lives’

Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jackie Drayton  cabinet member for children and families.
Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jackie Drayton cabinet member for children and families.

Councillor Jackie Drayton has been a representative of Burngreave ward for more than 20 years and over the past few years has lead as cabinet member for children and families.

Councillor Jackie Drayton has been a representative of Burngreave ward for more than 20 years and over the past few years has lead as cabinet member for children and families.

Steel signing at the new Astrea Academy being built on the site of the former Pye Bank infant School'Sarah Jane Sykes signs her name on the last steel with Cllr Jackie Drayton

Steel signing at the new Astrea Academy being built on the site of the former Pye Bank infant School'Sarah Jane Sykes signs her name on the last steel with Cllr Jackie Drayton

“I left school feeling rubbish and that I wasn’t very good academically,” she said.

“But there were a couple of people who saw something in me and held their hands out and said ‘come on you can do it’. More importantly they made me feel like I could do it. It wasn’t just them believing in me, it made me believe in myself. 

“There’s lots of other people out there, especially in the most deprived communities, who don’t believe they can do anything and they just need somebody to put their hand out at the right moment to stop them going down a certain path. It can change their lives.”

Coun Drayton was born in Coventry, left school at a young age and had children before moving to Sheffield. 

Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jackie Drayton  cabinet member for children and families.

Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jackie Drayton cabinet member for children and families.

She got involved in her local community and helped get a play area for small childern on a former wasteland while taking classes in art and teaching. After taking A-levels as an adult, she went to university for a degree in education.

In 1996, she experienced 'one of the proudest moments' of her life when she won her council election in Burngreave, and over the past few years has been a lead on the cabinet. 

She said although there are enjoyable things like attending graduations and celebratory events, it is not always easy.

Coun Drayton said: “Some of the decisions we make are hard, and not necessarily what we want to do but we have to because we have no more money.

“You wouldn’t think that in 2018 people would still be living in poverty and those with more than one job would need food banks. But people are struggling to survive, there’s still a long way for us to go to get a more equal society. If we can get more people back into work and more in apprenticeships, get our housing right and communities clean and tidy, and encourage health, we will do something about it.”

Coun Drayton has lived in Burngreave, one of the most deprived areas of the city, for 40 years and said ‘there’s nowhere I’d rather live’.

“Burngreave is a fantastic place to live and I have known nothing but kindness,” she said.

“My life has been enriched by living in Burngreave. It has a lot of troubles, but we all have those, it’s got such a strong community spirit.

“Over the time I’ve lived here I’ve made some wonderful friends, had great neighbours and met people from all around the world.”

In her spare time, Coun Drayton enjoys cooking, gardening and spending time with her family.  

“I love cooking and sometimes when I get home and it’s late I start cooking. As I start chopping the veg and preparing it all the cares and worries from the day are just relaxed.

“Sharing food is about sharing yourself and I think it’s wonderful. I also love gardening, I don’t have as much time as I used to but my kids and I got this small bit of lawn at the front and turned it into a vegetable garden.

“When I’m out there I see people and they stop and chat give people vegetables and not once has it been vandalised.”

Going forward, Coun Drayton said it will continue to be ‘very hard’ with the extreme cuts to council funding but said they need to be creative and effective in how they use the money they do have.

“I’ve always said to officers and anyone else, that we might have had our budget cut in half but actually it’s what we do with what we have left that is really important. It means we have to be more creative and work with partners and businesses to get the best possible thing for Sheffield, that is how we move forwards.”