More than 7,000 UK workers too fat to work
The Department for Work and Pensions statistics show the total number of obesity claims has doubled in three years to 7,080
By Stewart Whittingham
BIRMINGHAM, England — More than 7,000 adults in Britain are being paid sickness benefits because they are too fat to work.
The taxpayers' bill for their welfare payments came to more than £28million last year, shock figures reveal today.
The Department for Work and Pensions statistics show the total number of obesity claims has doubled in three years to 7,080. The amount paid out to claimants in the year to April 2012 was £28.5million, far higher than the previous estimate of £7million.
The benefits paid to people classed as too obese to work were divided into three chunks. A total of 5,090 people were paid £23.3million in Disability Living Allowance, 1,600 men and women got £4.1million in Severe Disability Living Allowance and a further 390 people were given £1.1million Employment and Support Allowance.
Obesity is a massive burden on the NHS and costs the health service more than £5billion a year. An NHS source said: "We are seeing more and more people overweight.
We often have to go out to them as they are often scared to go out of the house never mind find a job. They've become totally dependent on benefits."
The Government has vowed to cut the welfare bill and is replacing it with the new Personal Independence Payment in April.
Nearly a million disabled people are in danger of having benefits cut as ministers target the sick and vulnerable. But Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers'
Alliance, said: "Obesity is costing the taxpayers dear. For too long the benefits system has been quick to write people off and put them on the sick. This has to stop."
The payouts were blasted by chronic lung disease sufferer Marilyn Blakeman, 58, who has had her sickness benefits slashed in government cuts.
The grandmother, from Barry Island, south Wales has been stripped of £340-a-month benefits and told to look for work. She said: "I go on a breathing machine 12 times a day and have to be near a toilet but have been told to find a job.
"I'm genuinely ill but then you have people who are just overweight or minor problems and they get more cash. It's madness."
The new Government figures, released under freedom of information laws, also revealed that last year's incapacity benefit bill was £22billion. This was an increase of £1.4billion from 2011.
More than 4,000 people got incapacity benefits for headaches and 2,000 received it for gout. Hundreds more were given payouts for coughs and insomnia. And 30 even got sickness benefit for acne.
The statistics also revealed that Glasgow has 116,000 incapacity benefit claimants - the highest in the country. It was followed by Birmingham with 115,000 and Liverpool with 82,000.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We are determined that people who can work are given the help and support they need to help get back into the labour market."
Britain is the fattest country in Europe with one in four adults classed as obese. A recent report found one in three children is overweight before they leave primary school and firefighters have had to cut more than 100 obese people from their homes in the last two years - the equivalent of almost one every week.
Teenager Georgia Davis hit the headlines last year when she had to be cut out of her home in Aberdare, Rhondda, after she ballooned to 63stone. Georgia, 19, had organ failure after giving up on a diet.
A 40-strong team that included builders, scaffolders, doctors, social workers and fire fighters had to demolish part of her house to get her to an ambulance. It took the rescue team eight hours to free her.
Forecasters predict that if left unchecked, the obesity crisis will cost the wider economy £50billion by 2050. The Government has launched a Call to Action campaign to reduce excess weight in adults and children by 2020.
The strategy, launched in October 2011, has included calling on the food and drink industry to play a key role in slashing the nation's consumption by five billion calories a day. The drive includes the Change4Life scheme to encourage families to eat healthily and enjoy active lifestyles. Some companies have also signed a "responsibility pledge" to help improve public health.
And one top doctor has even suggested chip shops should be banned within walking distance of schools to help stamp out child obesity.
Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, called for fast-food exclusion zones and a ban on leaving school at lunchtime. She said: "Obesity in childhood can lead to a lifetime of serious health problems."
£1.1m in Employment and Support Allowance paid to 390 obese people
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