Obese Londoners Could Lose Welfare Benefits if They Don’t Exercise

  • Share
  • Read Later
REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files

Some overweight Brits could find their welfare benefits cut if they don’t complete a physician-prescribed exercise regimen, according to a new series of public policy proposals being considered in the London area of Westminster.

The idea is part of a series of recommendations in a joint report issued by the Westminster Council and a British think tank, the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU). The proposals are intended to be part of a massive cost-savings plan for when local council governments control of more than $3.25 billion in public money that formerly went to Britain’s national health service for public health campaigns.

(MORE:  Being Overweight Is Linked to Lower Risk of Mortality)

Jonathan Carr-West, the acting chief executive of the LGiU, told the BBC that the proposal is a “win-win” solution, saving the council money as well as “finding innovative ways” to improve people’s lives. Westminster Council leader Philippa Roe described the report as containing “exactly the sort of bright, forward-thinking and radical ideas that need to be looked at.”

According to the report, entitled “A Dose of Localism” and illustrated with a tantalizing green apple on the cover, councils should link welfare measures to “behaviors that promote public health.”

(MORE: U.S. Obesity Rates Remain Stubbornly High

The group suggests using smart cards to monitor how much exercise an individual who’s been told to work out more is getting, and varying their subsidized housing and tax payments to either reward or “incentivize” them based on how much exercise they do.

Obesity in the U.K. is a growing problem. More than  22% of adult Britons are obese, the highest rate in Europe. Coupled with the growing pressure on its health services—on which nearly $179 billion in public money is spent annually—politicians and policy-makers have been looking for ever more creative ways of improving the country’s health without breaking the bank.

(MORE: Overcoming Obesity)

However not everyone agrees the new proposals are “forward-thinking.” The chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners committee, Dr.Lawrence Buckman, called the suggestions “some of the silliest things I’ve heard in a long time,” adding that when he was first informed of the plans, he “thought it was a joke.”

Other commentators have pointed out flaws in the proposal—in particular the idea that the jobless and the overweight should be the easy target for councils looking to save money. As Charlotte Cooper wrote in the Guardian, “If body weight was a choice solely mediated by eating less and exercising more, we would all have lost weight ages ago.”

MORE: The New York City Soda Ban, and a Brief History of Bloomberg’s Nudges

13 comments
RustyShackelford
RustyShackelford

Only in a world turned upside down can somebody need welfare benefits and still be fat.  I know, fast food/takeaway is cheap and bad for you, but that's not my problem.  Give 'em rice, cheese, powdered milk, beans, and eggs based on number of people in the household.  If you eat all the food before the e  My problem with what they are doing lies more in the motivation than the act itself - it sounds like a bunch of perfect worlders want to use welfare as a way to incentivize people into losing weight.  Yay, we can all run through the park in matching track suits.  I'd rather somebody come out and say "hey, fatties, if you're going to be on the dole, lose weight so your poor decisions don't cost taxpayers even MORE money than they do now". 

davidtrw
davidtrw

“If body weight was a choice solely mediated by eating less and exercising more, we would all have lost weight ages ago.”

Hahaha.  God that explains so much.  I wonder how many other people don't realize that eating less and exercising more really is the sole thing necessary for losing weight.

modelgal27
modelgal27

they need to do that here in the states but also target those who are not overweight also who may not be trying to do better



Nai1ed
Nai1ed

Having a JOB does wonders to your health!

pendragon05
pendragon05

Sadly, when Britain became a welfare state, everyone became sedentary and is living off the system. Eliminate welfare, and no one can take advantage of the system.

FuzzyElephants
FuzzyElephants

Why does it have to be just about getting the population to lose weight?  Let's look at it this way- obesity and lack of exercise are both health risks.  So let's say some people actually use this program as an incentive to get off their tush and move around more.  Ok, maybe they don't lose weight... but they're exercising.  Plausibly we could argue that even if they don't lose weight the fact that they're exercising improves their health (building muscle, improving circulation, etc).  Not a bad idea if it actually gets sedentary people off their tush... and hey, there are plenty of skinny people who are couch potatoes too.

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

I would like to see how this experiment works out. I would like to see some states do this.

Dourn
Dourn

@davidtrw I think what she was meaning is that there are often psychological issues that prevent someone from effectively losing weight - for example low self-esteem. It's easy to judge people when you're not in the position yourself. But yes, factually "less calories, more exercise" is true, but again if it were easy, people would be doing it. I think laziness is only part of the problem. It's just easier (lazier?) for us to judge that people are lazy. And it fits with our desire to feel better about ourselves by making fun of/pouring scorn on others.

tmhcks
tmhcks

@davidtrw That's what I thought when I read this. I think it's just poor phrasing though. What she meant to add was that people are too lazy to do anything about it. They know what they need to do. 

JohnFernelius
JohnFernelius

@pendragon05  

You'd also be left with many poor people who were laid off, disabled, or simply underemployed or underpaid and watching them simply winding up on the streets. Not a great plan.

majikat138
majikat138

@Dourn @davidtrw   No, I think what she was referring to was that there are people who have disorders that make it hard for them to lose weight no matter how little they eat/how much they exercise.  Things like thyroid disorders that really can't be helped and are usually not their fault.  Funny thing is - sometimes a person can be blamed for having a hypothyroid disorder.  Usually that's the case when someone tries very hard to lose weight and end up crashing their metabolism.


Don't be so quick to judge - you don't know what someone is going through and the problems they have.  Just because someone is overweight does not mean that they are lazy or unhealthy.

pendragon05
pendragon05

@JohnFernelius you younger generation of Brits are not like the older generation - individuals who became disabled either by war or some other accident and still worked without becoming lazy and living on the dole. I have British friends I care very much about, but frankly, the British government would do better to have a more conservative system a la Margaret Thatcher.

Whatever happened to that good, old fashioned British rugged, pull oneself up by one's bootstraps mentality? Why have so many gone soft? You know something, the USA would have never been founded and established by a bunch of softies. And to stand up to imperialism. 

Britain has the ability to change for the better and get out of the Socialist system before they completely run out of money and need to be bailed out. I don't think Britain wan't to be in the position Greece is in.