Obese people who refuse treatment could have their benefits cut

James Nickerson
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David Cameron wants to get people back in work and cut the welfare bill (Source: Getty)

Overweight people who refuse to lose weight may have their benefits cut, as David Cameron launches a review of whether those with drug, alcohol or obesity problems should be deprived of welfare unless they accept treatment.

The review, led by Dame Carol Black, chairman of the Nuffield Trust and adviser to the Department of Health, conceded there are strong ethical issues at stake, but questioned whether people should continue to receive benefits even after refusing treatment provided by the government.

Read more: Why a sugar tax is not the solution to the UK's obesity epidemic

There will be "support and treatment" for those who want “the opportunity to improve their lives,” Cameron said.

However, he added:

We must look at what we do when people simply say no thanks and refuse that help but expect taxpayers to carry on funding their benefits.

According to NHS figures, 61.9 per cent of adults are overweight or obese. The direct cost of obesity to the NHS is £5bn a year, but obesity costs £27bn a year to the wider economy.

Potential savings will be examined by government statisticians. In particular, government economists will be asked how much would be cut from the total welfare bill if stricter rules were introduced.

Read more: Keeping obesity at bay: Why diet is more important than exercise when you're trying to lose weight

Cameron, who is on a tour of South East Asia, said the aim of the policy is to make sure more people seek treatment.

Our One Nation approach is about giving everyone the opportunity to improve their lives and for some that means dealing with those underlying health issues first and foremost.

Over the next five years I want to see many more people coming off of sick benefit and into work and Carol Black will report back to me on how best to achieve that.

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