EXCL Matt Hancock hints at prioritising wellbeing over economic growth if he becomes PM

Posted On: 
7th June 2019

Matt Hancock has hinted that he would prioritise improving people’s wellbeing over economic growth if he becomes the next Prime Minister.

Matt Hancock is running to replace Theresa May as prime minister
Credit: 
Louise Haywood-Schiefer

In an interview with The House magazine, the Health Secretary said he was interested in a similar policy being pursued by the government of New Zealand.

Mr Hancock - one of 11 candidates in the running to be Tory leader - argued that improving workers’ health wellbeing would boost the UK’s productivity.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government recently became the first to produce a ‘wellbeing budget’ that prioritised social issues, such as improving mental health and addressing child poverty, over economic growth.

When asked what he made of the policy, Mr Hancock told The House: “I think it’s a really interesting approach, and I’ve thought quite a lot about it.

“Ultimately, for me, the purpose of politics is to help people to achieve their potential. I believe very strongly that everybody has a contribution to make to society and the role of government is to help them to do that to the best they can.

“Good politics is about improving people’s lives, which in the technical language is described as improving people’s wellbeing. The fact that we now measure wellbeing, which was introduced under the Coalition, is important.”

Mr Hancock praised recent developments in speaking about mental health and wellbeing, singling out Princes William and Harry and MPs Charles Walker and Norman Lamb for breaking new ground.

“It’s an example of the sort of change that I want to see. People increasingly think about their mental, physical and social health as one valuable asset, as opposed to merely thinking of health as what you do to fix your body when it goes wrong. There’s a great change in attitude and it’s the sort of attitude that can be applied more broadly,” he said.

When asked if it the New Zealand model was one he would seek to emulate, Mr Hancock replied:  “Yes, I’d look to emulate both directly to ensure that we support people’s mental health right across government’s policies – so, working with Penny Mordaunt at the Ministry of Defence on the mental health of veterans and work with my old department at DCMS on promoting activity which is good for mental as well as your physical health.

“But more broadly than that, it’s the attitude that has led to this much more positive focus on mental health, the attitude that what matters is helping people to lead more fulfilling lives. That is the goal of politics.”

Mr Hancock said he has “absolutely no doubt” that targeting people’s wellbeing could have a positive effect on UK productivity growth.

“I’m working with Amber Rudd on improving mental health in work, and there’s work for all businesses to do and for government to support in to ensure that people get that help,” he said.