Taxpayers foot the £80 million obesity benefits bill

We are well used to hearing about Britain's obesity crisis but new official figures have revealed the true cost of the nation's fat epidemic. According to figures from the Department of Work and Pensions, benefits claimed by those who are officially too fat to work have cost the taxpayer £80 million since Labour came to power. In fact, the number of people claiming incapacity benefits due to their weight has doubled since 1997.

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Overweight claimants, who are moved from the dole queue to sickness benefits, are £25 a week better off than those on the jobseeker's allowance and it has cost the taxpayer more than £9.5 million to keep 2,040 obese claimants on incapacity benefit.

Analysis by the Tory party estimates the true cost of obesity handouts at more than £100 million over the past 12 years, though Labour dispute the figure, pointing out that it is based on the current incapacity rate and not the lower rates of previous years.

Minister for Disabled People Jonathan Shaw, insists that tests are in place to weed out any false claims. He told the Daily Mail: "Being obese does not qualify anyone for a handout. Incapacity benefit is paid where people are too ill to work and some people have a mix of different health conditions."

Presumably, though, those health conditions are inextricably linked to their obesity.

After a year of mounting incapacity benefit numbers, Government ministers recently announced that all claimants would be subject to a work test in the hopes of removing those found to be fit for employment. But with 2.6 million people currently claiming incapacity benefit (treble the number in 1979), is it too little too late?

And should the taxpayer be footing the bill for those whose inability to work is often down to unhealthy eating habits?