Blue Badges, which are given to disabled drivers to enable them to park in spaces nearer to the shops, are being handed out to obese people. A report has claimed that they are being given to people who are so obese they cannot walk more than 50 metres at a time.
But can it be right?
The discovery was made by Mail Online, which put out a Freedom of Information request to councils and discovered that more than six permits had been given to obese people over the last three years. However, the report added that this number could be much higher, because many councils did not keep records.
Walsall council in the West Midlands kept accurate records and said they had given out six permits to obese people. Meanwhile, Coventry and Renfrewshire both said they had given badges for this reason, but did not have a record of the number.
OutrageThe concerns raised by the reports were not at the handful of blue badges that had been handed out, but that this number will rise as the population gets increasingly fat. They cited a recent report that claimed that half of all people in the UK could be obese by 2050.
CostCritics of this kind of service for the obese point out that obesity is a major cost to the UK. They highlight that already in England almost two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and that this is a major contributing factor to a number of different health conditions from type 2 diabetes to heart disease and certain cancers. The government estimates that the health problems associated with weight issues cost the NHS £5 billion a year.
And it doesn't stop here. Once people reach a particular level of obesity it can also impact on their ability to find and keep work. The government claims that for a business employing 1,000 people, the cost of obesity to their productivity could be £126,000 a year. Taking everything into consideration, it puts the cost to the overall economy at £15.8 billion a year.
UnfairHowever, while the country would be better off if everyone was a healthy weight, had a healthy lifestyle, and was never sick, does this mean that people whose obesity is making their lives a misery should be left without help?
A representative of Walsall council told the Mail that councils had a duty to assess mobility - and not the reason for it. Guidelines mean that someone is eligible if they have a 'permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking'. And these people qualified on that basis.
There are all sorts of causes of obesity. There are genetic factors, there are those people who do not know how to take better care of themselves, and there are those who turn to food because of other aspects of their life which are damaging their mental wellbeing.
Simply abandoning people who have become so obese that they cannot walk could hardly be argued as being a helpful way to encourage them to turn their lives around.
Lesley McCormack, the Founding Director Of HOOP UK, a charity helping overcome obesity problems says: "My daughter was obese. I found it impossible to get any help or support for her. I was judged, blamed and ignored. None of these things were helpful to me or my child. In fact they were damaging." She set up the charity to help people get the help they needed to achieve a healthy lifestyle, which in many cases means helping them to access the services that can help.
If someone has become so overweight that they cannot walk, it's hard to argue that the best way to get them out and about and in contact with those who can help them is to refuse them a Blue Badge.
But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.