Donna Ludford, who was born in Manchester, England, entered the foster care system at six months old after a major accident involving her parents. On May 18, she was named Manchester’s new lord mayor as an advocate for child welfare.
Ludford has faced adversity in both childhood and adulthood. She was placed in more than 20 homes during her time in the foster care system in the 1970s and ’80s, and from a young age, went to more than a dozen schools, according to Manchester’s press release.
Her experiences with abuse and neglect as well as her professional roles involving youth well-being led to Ludford developing her involvement in educational support for vulnerable children. She has also raised four children with her husband in an inner-city area, the release said.
“I have worked at Manchester City Council since the mid-1990s, where I started as a cleaner,” Ludford stated in the release. “I love the city and have been here for its key moments. I am excited to take my position as Lord Mayor and be involved at the heart of the Council.”
Ludford told Manchester Evening News that she “got a break” at age 16 and was placed with a foster parent — Patricia — “who would tell her ‘you can do anything.’” After ending a “toxic relationship” in her early 20s, she took her children with her and was hired as a part-time cleaner at Manchester City Council.
After that, Ludford worked as a caretaker and volunteer youth worker. She was also an educational support worker at Manchester’s Pupil Referral Unit, a school that helps address students’ emotional and behavioral barriers to education. Her time there fostered her passion for supporting marginalized students in their education.
By 2013, she was elected to serve as councillor for the city’s wards Ancoats and Clayton of Manchester, and after redrawn boundaries, she became a councilor for wards Clayton and Openshaw according to Manchester’s press release. She has also served as both chair and deputy chair of the Licensing Committee.
Foster parent and journalist Martin Barrow tweeted about the new lord mayor, saying, “Wow: Donna Ludford, new Lord Mayor of Manchester. Grew up in care and experienced abuse and neglect. Worked as a part-time cleaner. Committed to focusing on young people in the care system and care leavers.”
Ludford’s term as lord mayor aligns with Manchester Council’s Year of the Child campaign, which pledges to prioritize children’s needs as Manchester heals from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Manchester Evening News.
The Manchester press release said this campaign will be Ludford’s top issue, with a focus on the needs of young people in foster care and those leaving..
“One of my key priorities is to focus on young people that are in the care system. As a care leaver myself I believe we can work with this sometimes forgotten community and ensure that they receive support from Manchester City Council,” Ludford said.
During the mayoral ceremony for Ludford, the new mayor highlighted her intentions to make Manchester children’s lives better, telling Manchester Evening News, “Growing up in care, being a care leaver, does not define me,” she said.
“My achievements define me. My achievements make me who I am and who I want to be. So from care, to the Lord Mayor of this great city, and the work I will do in the coming year will define who I am.”