Posted on 10 Comments

The potential of obese or unhealthy to be punished by benefit cuts.


I have to say, the article on the BBC News site made me chuckle at first in how ridiculous it was, but then I read it again, and realised they were serious.  I’ve no doubt the header saying simply “Obese may face cut to benefits.” is intended to draw the reader in.  It does so effectively.

The gist of it is that Westminster Council are being reported as considering to refuse overweight or unhealthy people who won’t attend exercise sessions their full benefits.

They state a supposed “aim to save £5 billion from the NHS budget when the local authority takes over the public health provision this coming April.”

It seems proposed to work with GPs prescribing exercise to patients and they can then use a smart card to use leisure centres.   They even go so far as to say that resident, housing AND council tax benefits could be varied to reward or “incentivise” patients.

The more I read of this article, the more ridiculous it seems.

So, all I can assume is that somewhere, someone is going to hold a database of all “fat” or “unhealthy” patients who have been offered, and have either accepted or refused the prescribed exercise.  I have no idea how they could even begin to police this.

Is it a question of just getting a free gym membership, and where do the cut offs exist?  What about skinny patients who never eat, or thin bulimics, or diabetics who tend to put on weight, and those suffering hormonal conditions?  They are all “unhealthy” but are they going to be targeted as well?  If so, what are the terms of meeting the conditions?

Could they simply turn up , sign in, or do they have to actively perform hari kari to fast music prescribed by a GP until their heart gives out?

I’m all for a little exercise, but I have no idea how on earth this uneven playing field could ever be levelled.

Hey, I’m up for a free gym membership to try to get my lazy ass off the sofa (joking really, I am pretty active for an unhealthy bird) but I don’t get benefits.  I’m not going to be happy about this if it reaches our neck of the woods.  Memberships can be hundreds of pounds a year so why should it only be those on benefits who get to go for nothing?

The other thing I have to ask about this, is why just target obesity.  What about the druggies, or the alcoholics, or the wife beaters?  Wouldn’t they all benefit from a little free gym exercise on prescription too?

So, in effect, for Westminster Council, they just want people to listen to their GP and they can keep their benefits.

There have to be some ways to tackle the problem in our country, but I can’t see this working how it’s been reported, after all, those who have worked up an appetite at the gym are likely to go and have a chipper and a pint on the way home as they’re starving.  Never mind though, they get to keep their benefits, so it’s all ok.

What do I think of all this?  I have no idea how the Tory Government would hope to save £5 billion from a scheme that is going to be almost impossible to enforce, police and keep up with.    If they did do it properly, I’d love to see the NHS figures for the personal trainers, nutritionists and follow-up teams they would need to get it to have any effect whatsoever.  And what about those who aren’t on benefits, why aren’t they entitled to GP help with their weight?

I think it’s all a load of codswallop, tripe and blubbery goo.

Weight gain is a reflection of a combination of emotional, lifestyle, addiction, food price and availability.  Until those are also tackled, what is the point?  Am I missing some seriously fundamental point from the article that brings it all together?

All I see is spending out more money so that “some” of the people can get free exercise classes.  Don’t they already get that if they have a serious health problem?


10 thoughts on “The potential of obese or unhealthy to be punished by benefit cuts.

  1. I am fat (hate the word obese..yuk), unemployed, and a single parent..just kill me now…!

    1. Just the right demographic to get a free gym membership to solve ALL your future problems !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I am clinically obese. I do a physical job that walks 10/12 thousand steps in a shift, making beds and pushing trolleys, hoovering and washing floors as I go. I walk for an hour or more 5 days a week, and will happily cycle. I love swimming but as I work cant afford to go. I eat healthy as due to allergies I cant eat unhealthy with all meals made at home from scratch.
    Im not obese cos Im lazy and no matter what I do I cant shift it. I dont smoke, I dont drink alcohol and my cholesterol levels are good – but the female GP refused me the orlistat tablets as she has to exercise to stay slim why should I get a helping hand???? Her words not mine.
    I pointed out to her at this point that the junkies get methadone for years at a time and smokers get patches at my expense as well whenever it suits them to stop and start smoking so whats the difference?
    So if I loose my job will I be refused benefits just cos Im fat.

    1. From what I hear, Orlistat isn’t the greatest thing to take. I did try one of the tablets once, but they made me ill as they had the junky sodium lauryl sulphate in them. Your last line, yep, if they get their way, it could boil down to that, but I can’t see it happening. I suspect those on benefits already get access to council gym facilities anyway, but this would be the wrong message to send completely, even if they could police it.

      I tend to make most meals, but my problem is portion size and snacking in-between. My willpower is not the greatest, neither is my rotten hormonal problems, which I’m sure make my food addiction worse than it should be. Your GP sounds pretty nasty. Might be worth trying another one at the practice.

  3. A similar scheme is spreading into my area; people are being prescribed keep fit sessions at our local gym (though you dont have to be on benefits as far as I know). Im not sure if it tackles the root of the problems. People have a few sessions of keep fit but then what? Do they keep going or fall of the bandwagon. I can’t see how this scheme alone can get to the root of some of the issues that can lead to obesity; ie mental health issues, social issues, poor food etc. But yet again this government is focusing on the individual. What about regulating TV food adverts, improving school food, making healthier food cheaper, introduce cooking lessons at school etc etc. There are so many other things they could be doing rather than introducing another gimmick.

    1. Hi, you got me there at “Regulating food ads”. That is a really good idea at how to getting to the core of this issue. The government to do something more extensive steps than to just individuals.

      Regards London Bridge fitness center.

      1. I’ve not heard of people being prescribed keep fit sessions apart from heart attack or stroke victims. I agree, it doesn’t tackle the root of the problem at all. Agree with it all.

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