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?
With mental health affecting one in four people, it is not surprising that it is so common amongst the single homeless – a terrible vicious circle to be caught in. The Lib Dems want to drastically cut the waiting times for mental health patients and improve the standard of treatment which would cut the chance of those individuals falling into homelessness in the first place. If I were elected, I would strive to ensure that all relevant services in Newcastle work together to ensure that people do not slip between the cracks.
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?
This is an incredibly important issue for me and one on which the Lib Dems have been leading. Social inequality rocketed under the last Conservative Government and continued to rise under Labour – a shocking legacy from both parties. Fairness is a key plank of our pre-election policy and we intend to make tax cuts for the poor to get them out of the poverty trap and to spend an average of £2,500 extra per pupil for the schools teaching the million most deprived children in the country to give them a fair start in life.
Q. If you become Member of Parliament for Newcastle Central what priority will give to mental health issues locally & nationally?
Mental health has to be a priority in a progressive society. As a councillor I come into contact with people suffering from mental health issues on a regular basis. We have some fantastic services already in Newcastle including the Crisis Skylight centre in the ward I represent, whose establishment had the full support of myself and my fellow ward councillors. But I would like to see an even more holistic approach taken to mental health issues more widely including tackling poverty, deprivation, run down neighbourhoods and green spaces. I’m not an expert on mental health, but I’m sure that more could be done to tackle the causes as well as supporting those affected.
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 poverty of references to mental health problems demonstrates that this is still a Cinderella issue for the Labour Government. I am not an expert on mental health or welfare reform, but having read the criticisms raised by Mind, it does look as if the act could better take into consideration the needs of those with mental health problems.