Interview with Andrew Gray, Green Party Candidate for Newcastle East

Below are my answers to the specific questions.  Our main
policy manifesto includes a section relating to mental health within
the health chapter, which you will find at
http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/mfsshe.html.  This relates to
our long-term vision for how a health system could look, so focuses
on health prevention issues and tackling the underlying causes of
much of the ill health within society.  As your own questions
recognise, health cannot be confined purely to ‘health policies’, but
is impacted on by housing, social, employment and wider economic
policy.

Note that I am not an expert on mental health issues so would expect
to work with those on the ground who use and provide services to
develop solutions.  Although I have given some of our long-term policy
principles below, the next government will not be made up of
fellow-Greens.  So, if elected, I would be working within the current
systems (funding, legislation) to help groups find short/medium-term
solutions, and
recognise both the limitations and opportunities this would provide.

> >> Q. The homeless charity Crisis highlighted the growing problem of
> >> mental ill-health amongst the single homeless what would you do
> >> if elected to tackle this challenge?

Green Party policy is to give single persons and childless couples
the same rights to social housing as families, and to remove
references to the ‘intentionally homeless’ within legislation.  I
also support calls for a ‘right to rent’ (ie to convert part or all
of equity into rent rather than face eviction), partly to end the
stigma of rented vs owned accommodation that has caused so many
problems in housing supply and the ghetto-isation of much social housing.

These policies would have to be combined with longer-term policies to
support local communities, so that single people would not find
themselves so isolated within ghettoes of despair.  Our policies on
the local economyprioritise local business and services over the corporate power of
large supermarkets etc, and recognise the importance of ‘social
capital’ within the economy.

> >> Q. Organisations such as Church Action on Poverty, Joseph
> >> Rowntree Foundation Have highlighted under New Labour ” ”
> >> the increase in social inequalities and if elected what priority
> >> would you give to raising this?

The growing gap between richest and poorest is damaging, not just to
those who are left out of the growing prosperity they see around
them, but to society at large.  Our Citizens’ Income proposals aim to
establish a basic level of provision (essentially a universal safety
net), and would be partly met by significantly higher taxes for those
on high earnings.
I would give this a high priority, not least because environmental
protection is impossible without a base of social justice and a level
playing field.


> >> Q. If you become Member of Parliament for Newcastle East what
> >> priority will give to mental health issues locally & nationally?

Mental health has traditionally been a Cinderella service in terms of
both funding and esteem, and this needs to turn around.  I have to
plead my ignorance on specific measures that would be needed to change
this, but would look forward to working with others at an early
stage in terms of how this can (start to) be done locally.

One of our economic principles is to replace the outdated and skewed
measures of economic growth (specifically Gross Domestic Product),
with indicators of well-being (originally the Indicator of
Sustainable Economic Welfare or ISEW developed by the New Economics
Foundation, though more broadly based well-being indicators are now
more developed).  This would help expose, among other things,
increasing levels of unease and mental ill-health at all levels of
society, and force these issues up national priorities – indicators
such as ISEW or the ‘happy planet’ index show how poorly the UK has
done since the early 1980s in terms of well-being.

> >> Q. A lot of vocal criticism has been expressed organisations
> >> such as Mind about the Government’s welfare reform proposals as
> >> failing to understand the nature of mental health problems and
> >> the support need? What is your opinion on these proposals?

The reforms for incapacity benefit/ESA are already failing many of
those with more hidden or uneven/variable health difficulties,
including many with mental health problems.  Furthermore, by placing
all the emphasis on paid employment as the only route out of ‘benefit
dependence’, they underestimate the importance of more informal
activity (the contributions people make that they don’t earn a wage
for), further stigmatise those who are ‘left’ on benefits, and
potentially leave others to pick up the pieces (health services,
families etc).
> >> Q.What is your view on the Labour government’s move to a
> >> maerketised, atomised model for social care  services with the
> >> need for social inclusion and cohesion?

Increasing use of short-term contract-based provision and a
target-driven approach damages the ability to provide good services
and the wider social inclusion agenda.  I am particularly interested
in how the ‘co-production’ model pioneered in some parts of the US
could be used, whereby service users are recognised for what they can
give back to the community through involvement in the service delivery
themselves, ‘time banks’ and similar.  However, care needs to be taken
that this is not done in order to save money (as happened with parts
of the ‘care in the community’ agenda), and service provision must in
no way become dependent on a return by the users (whether in the form
of voluntary activity or paid employment).

I’m sure I could rabbit on more, but hope that gives an indication of
both my own thinking and Green policy in these areas.  Where I am
short on specifics, that is for the reasons stated at the top of this
message.

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