Interview with Catherine McKinnell, Labour Candidate for Newcastle North

Q. What inspired you to become a candidate at the next general election?

I was born in Newcastle North constituency, and live here with my growing family and lots of extended family too. As someone who has always been politically active (from campaigning for human rights at school, to promoting fairtrade goods and better recycling facilities at university), when Doug Henderson MP announced he was retiring I took the opportunity to stand for election. Who better to represent a constituency than somebody who lives in and genuinely cares about the area, and knows the day to day challenges that so many of us face?

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?

It is a huge challenge, and the most important place to focus is on tackling the causes, which are wide and varied. We need more investment in social housing, more work to eradicate poverty, but also greater access to therapies to tackle mental illness.

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?

I am pleased to see that the government is placing such emphasis on tackling the issue of social inequality. Over the last 12 years Labour has worked hard to stem the rising inequality that it inherited from the previous Conservative administration, but has had to accept that much more needs to be done. I believe one of the most important aspects of tackling social inequality is through providing access to a good education, from a very early age. That’s why I support SureStart and will fight against any cuts proposed by the Conservatives, and will also fight to see Labour’s promise to extend free nursery places from age two realised. Labour also introduced the National Minimum Wage and Tax Credits, which have helped bring many out of poverty, but once again they are under threat if Labour does not win a fourth term in government.

Q.If you become Member of Parliament for Newcastle North what

priority will give to mental health issues locally & nationally?

There is a clear link between poor mental health, worklessness, relationship breakdown and homelessness.  I think some people hoped these things would go away with the growth in prosperity after 1997, but we have seen that this is not the case – that’s why more effort is now being put in to provide greater access to treatment and therapies, but there is still so much to do. I would particularly like to see the stigma associated with mental illness removed through better understanding and treatment, so that people will not be afraid to come forward at an early a stage as possible to get the help they need.

Q.how can you reconcile the Labour government’s move to a

marketised, atomised model for social care  services with the need for

social inclusion and cohesion?

The government has tried to allow voluntary and community providers, and also private sector providers, into the NHS system to encourage innovation, increase capacity and develop choice.  I do have some concerns about this approach, however I am open-minded about anything that can provide a better service to patients.  I am also pleased to see that the government is legislating for free care at home as the first step towards a National Care Service.  I want to hear all ideas about how we can meet the expanding demands for care as our population ages, and I will champion these in Westminster if elected as MP for Newcastle North.

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