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The U.K. is Pondering Whether to Cut Benefits to Obese People and Drug Users

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is launching a review into whether tens of thousands of obese people and those struggling with drugs or alcohol should have their welfare benefits revoked unless they accept treatment.


Somewhere, Margaret Thatcher is smiling.

The review will explore the cost of obesity, drug dependency, and alcoholism to society and taxpayers with a goal of tackling the ethical issue surrounding their right to claim benefits. A consultation paper outlining the review states it will “consider how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions back into work or to remain in work.”

Cutting benefits to drug users and alcoholics is somewhat defensible – the societal cost (NHS costs, lost productivity, crime) of alcohol dependency is around $35 billion; drug addiction racks up around $24 billion annually – but the issue of cutting funds for the obese is a very slippery slope.

Though obesity comes at an annual societal cost of around $42 billion – a number the government believes is actually much higher because many people will have other main disabling conditions recorded that may be caused, or made worse, by obesity – the condition itself is often not the product of laziness or able to be treated. Furthermore, the paper points out that “the current system fails to ensure everyone receives effective healthcare or specialist employment support,” creating a vicious cycle of welfare dependency.

“Over the next five years, I want to see many more people coming off sick benefit and into work and Carol Black (who is in charge of the review) will report back to me on how best to achieve that,” Cameron said.

Something tells us effective healthcare and specialist employment support will be incredibly more effective than eliminating what many people survive on as their only means of income.


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