Diet and Weight Loss News

2,130 individuals in Britain are claiming incapacity benefit as a direct result of obesity

Written By Betty van der Mark on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | 11:16 PM

And there are likely to be hundreds or even thousands more whose weight has led to severe health problems, such as diabetes, cancer or heart defects, which have made them unfit to take jobs. It is the latest evidence that the country's obesity epidemic is threatening to spiral out of control. Last week it emerged that the number of patients admitted to hospital for weight-related health issues has leapt seven-fold in a decade.

There are around 2.6million adults on sickness handouts, meaning about one in 1,200 are receiving up to £84.50 a week because they are grossly overweight.
The Government is driving through reform of incapacity benefit, replacing it with an employment and support allowance, and re-testing all claimants to assess their ability to take jobs.

However, there are doubts about how far the shake-up will apply to existing claimants.
Tory work and pensions spokesman James Clappison, who obtained the figures in a Parliamentary question, said: 'Labour has neglected the ticking obesity timebomb we are facing, and now we are seeing the detrimental effects on our economy.
'We urgently need action now, but unfortunately this Government's record has been one of obesity targets missed and scrapped, budgets for information campaigns being raided, and dithering over food labelling.

'They've missed the opportunities they've had to make a real difference, and now hard-working taxpayers are paying the consequences.'
To qualify for incapacity benefit, claimants are given a series of medical tests, known as the Personal Capability Assessment, to determine if they can work.
As at August last year, the most recent date for which figures are available, 2,130 claimants had a primary diagnosis of obesity.
Obesity is normally defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more. BMI is measured by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in metres squared.
A figure of between 18.5 and 25 is considered healthy. Some 5,018 people ended up in hospital in 2007-08 because they were so fat their health was in danger.
In 1996-97, there were only 738 admissions with obesity as the main diagnosis. The annual direct cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated at £49million, while associated problems are estimated to add another £1.2billion.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said last night: 'Being obese does not mean that someone is considered incapable of work.
'To qualify for incapacity benefits, claimants must take part in a medical assessment which will assess an individual's ability to carry out a range of activities which are required for the workplace. 'Obesity on its own will not mean that someone can qualify for IB. The new Personal Capability Assessment now focuses specifically on the work that someone can do, not just their eligibility for benefits. 'We are determined that people who can work are given the help and support they need to help get back into the labour market.'